Mindful Musing

ANTICIPATORY MINDFULNESS – Part 3

ANTICIPATORY MINDFULNESS – Part 3

PRESENCE WITHOUT SELF

There is a very dominant use of the pronoun I in Western language. It suggests that this is our identity and agent of our actions. Interestingly in Japan there is little use of the pronoun I. Language in Japan is very context-dependent. If the situation infers that the self is acting then there is no need for the word I. Japan is much more a collective rather than an individualistic society. The group is more important than the self. Hence, less use of the word I. If they can do it, there is no reason why we in the West can do without the I in conversation.

What would it be like for us to avoid using the word I as a supportive strategy to non-attach with the sense of self. Language is very important in reinforcing our identification.

It is said that the sense of self performs an important utilitarian function. It pays our taxes, makes sure we get to our job on time, buys the groceries, plans our holidays etc. However, could we function without needing to use the word I to define who we are. As discussed, I is just an arbitrary term that is superimposed upon the minds meaning making and self-referential judgment of a stimulus. Can we just be this humanness that we inhabit? This human body and the capacity of our mind to process information and be conscious without being identified as I, the one that is taking ownership for our happiness and suffering.

To some extent we omit the word I in our speech and we are still understood.

Initially one can use a strategy where there is a conscious naming of the present moment experience without saying I. It can be helpful to describe what is being felt or thought in response to the action that has happened. It is not that there is no emotion or thinking present. It is that there is no sense of self to own it. One is just witnessing the experience.

For example one would say: “Worried about losing the keys. Angry with John (my son). Arguing with Joan (my partner). Forgetting to pay the phone bill. Enjoying the holiday. Scared of losing the job. Feeling guilt about being dishonest. Experiencing pride about winning the contest.”

Then in response to what one is aware of can one formulate an internal plan or external verbal response again without using the word I? There is a naming of the action in response to the stimulus. For example, internally one might say: “Need to find the keys. Speak to John. Pay the phone bill. Buy the groceries. Explain the situation to the boss.”

In terms of speech one might say: “Apologies for acting rudely. Action will be taken about the problem. Take care. Love you. Going to the food store. Sorry about being rude. Need some time to figure this out.”

Initially when you do this it requires some mental gymnastics as we are so used to using the word I. This is a good thing to have to really think about one’s response and make the effort for not using the word I that linguistically supports non-identification.

Use of the third person can be helpful to avoid using the word I. It is strange to talk about oneself from the third person perspective. One would preface the comments with your name. For example: “Philip is angry. Philips needs to apologize.” There is a designation of who is responsible for what is happening but it feels more objective and distant.

Avoiding the use of I forces one to remember to search for what is not self to meet the moment.

Can you speak as not-self


by Dr. Phil Blustein
June 7, 2024

ANTICIPATORY MINDFULNESS – Part 2

ANTICIPATORY MINDFULNESS – Part 2

SEE WHAT YOU LOOK FOR

One is trying to create a change in how we are in relationship with experience. A shift from the automatic self-referential judgment to a non-self-referential discernment. Creating a preprogrammed response based on appreciating what is magical about the moment, not what it means about me can offer a strategy to enact this. It is possible to change how we react and recondition our conditioning! This can be done through intentional awareness followed by instantaneous naming and then a prompted inquiry that one can initiate before our minds sabotage our attempts to consciously respond. Normally we are not aware of what we are aware of. We may be sad, angry, looking at a flower, hearing a bird or walking on the ground but not know this. One initially needs to develop vigilance. To be actively present and on guard with a prepared and searching mind looking for what will arise in our consciousness in the next moment rather than be surprised by self-criticism that will inevitably arise. There needs to be an intentional focus of anticipation to be able to consciously be attuned to what one is aware of. One is consciously looking to see.

Naming

Initially on contact with an internal or external stimulus you instantly name what is present and perhaps what is happening as a way of anchoring yourself into the experience. Naming one’s experience is a recognized practice in mindfulness but this is usually performed AFTER one’s mind has judged the experience. I am suggesting a practice at the POINT OF CONTACT rather than after the mind’s interpretation of what is present. It is as simple as saying: “Sun, flower, music, man walking, dog running, child singing.” Importantly one does not use the word “I” as a way out of identifying with the sense of self. Be prepared to instantly respond rather than react to what is present. Try and practice this as you engage with the world.

What do we do after the naming?

Inquiry

PEOPLE

We tend to be very triggered by other people. It is a natural and probable biologic response as a way of gauging where we are in relationship with other to determine our safety. When you see another person you instantly name what is present ie. man walking, woman singing etc.

This is followed by one of the following phrases.

What is your gift?

What is your story?

How are we similar?

How are we interconnected?

How are we interdependent?

Ultimately choose the phrase or phrases that resonates most deeply with you.

We want to be reminded of how connected and similar we are rather than how the other person triggers one of our unmet psychological needs that causes us suffering. We are all human and live this magical and mystical experience. We all have a unique gift or passion that calls to live through us. We are all interconnected and dependent on other. We need to be reminded to bring curiosity, connection, appreciation and delight with other rather than judgment and separation. We are also all similar from the perspective that we have our personal narrative that determines how we function in this world. We are all wounded to some degree.

SENSATIONS

The beauty of life is seeing how “AWE FULL” it is

We see a beautiful rainbow, mountains, sky, flowers etc. and the next time we see it, it has lost its impact. As humans we quickly habituate to what we experience. This may reflect a primitive biologic need for survival. If we become too engrossed in what we are experiencing we are no longer vigilant to a potential threat. We also make the assumption that it is the same and we know what it is. We become bored. “Nothing new here!” Unfortunately, we miss out on a lot. For some individuals who have a life threatening illness with a shortened life span they may experience an appreciation and joy for every moment that they never had before. What is different? The way they view and are present for the moment! Normally we are not even aware of the external sensations that we see, hear, taste, touch and smell. And if we are aware we don’t stop to savor it but quickly move on to then next sensation or quickly judge it in terms of how it will impact me.Normally value is not inherent to what we experience but what we superimpose upon it. It is possible to shift this perspective.

First we need to be aware of what is present. Conventionally we are not present to what we are experiencing. We multitask, always looking for the next sensory “hit.” We need to slow down. Focus on what we are experiencing. Be aware of what we are aware of. When we have the capacity to have a more continual awareness of what we are doing in the present moment, this helps to shut down the mental interpretation, amplification and rumination. We short circuit the default mode network of selfing. We have all experienced the awe of a majestic moment that seems greater than our human condition. This occurs when we focus our attention on the sensation and suspend our judgment of it. We begin to appreciate its uniqueness and what it has to offer.

After the sensation is named ie. seeing a rainbow, smelling perfume, touching the ground, hearing a song, tasting ice cream can one instantly pose the question:

What is the Gift of This Moment

This question helps to focus our attention on what is Awe Full in the moment. We come to each moment with an already established history and expectation about it. We need to change the lens in which we see experience so that we look without bias in order to see what is really there rather than see what we are already looking for. We see what we expect to find.

Do We Look to See
or See What We Look For

We need to stop looking for the perfect moment but be open to what is as perfect as it can be in the moment. We need to suspend our judgment and begin to appreciate the uniqueness and magic of what is present. This is not about searching for an answer to the question, but simply allowing one to be touched by what is present. Nothing is the same. Can we see the beauty manifesting in all that we experience? Can we see the interconnectedness of existence reflected in what we encounter? Can this be a reminder to have gratitude for one’s capacity to be able to be aware? Can we rejoice in being reminded of the fact that we are alive in this human existence moment to moment? Can we delight in the discovery of what is being revealed to us?

We need to train ourselves so that we have ANTICIPATORY PREPAREDNESS to pose these questions as soon as we are engaged with any experience before our autonomous subconscious self-referential judging mind intervenes.

Intentional Awareness Exercise

One can intentionally practice to bring anticipatory mindfulness to the present moment. Close your eyes for a few seconds. And then open them up. Scan your environment with the specific intent to be aware and then respond from a place of looking for what is the gift in the moment. Close your eyes and just listen. Again, bring your awareness to what is heard and then instantly and intentionally be open to what is special about what is heard. This can be performed before you smell or eat your food or are in contact with a physical sensation. One can choose a specific sensation and deliberately bring awareness to what is revealed.

Approach sensations in the moment with intentional awareness in mind. Before you encounter them be prepared to respond rather than subconsciously react.


by Dr. Phil Blustein
May 16, 2024

ANTICIPATORY MINDFULNESS

ANTICIPATORY MINDFULNESS

Let us explore some strategies that anticipate the use of mindfulness. Do you find that when you come into contact with an internal or external stimulus that there is an instantaneous reaction that you did not consciously think about? You saw someone in the street and instantly there is a judgment that they are too fat or thin, stylish or unfashionable, smart or dumb. When you talk to a friend and they mention their health, holidays, job, car, family is there an instantaneous comparison of who you are relative to them? Better or worse. Superior or inferior? When you eat your food, walk down the street, be in nature, spend time with family or a friend do you immediately skip being with what is present and jump to your relationship with the experience. A relationship of resistance with either approach or avoidance. Self-criticism and judgment!

In all of our encounters are you ever able to be with what actually is rather than further meaning making and selfing? No time to enjoy and savor what is present. Our minds are conditioned to subconsciously, automatically and autonomously self-referentially judge everything. We become aware only after our minds have determined what this moment means about you and what needs to be done to feel safe, loved and worthy.

Is there a way to break out of this mindless auto-pilot reaction? This lack of control over our relationship with our experience? Can we come to each moment prepared to act mindfully? Can we proactively respond rather than react unconsciously? We need to be prepared for engaging in life that will interrupt the automaticity of what one normally does. There are several approaches that I would like to outline.

Be with what is as it is

Not what I make it to be, need it to be, want it to be, believe it to be!

INTENTIONALITY

Before we speak, act or think there is an intentionality for our actions. We act for a specific reason. Conventionally we are not aware of what we plan to do and why. We are just swept away in the rapid unfolding of our processing mind. This is all a subconscious automatic and autonomous process to meet one’s unmet psychological needs. The truth is that normally the:

Intentionality for Intentionality is NOT Intentional

However, the intentionality can be known if we learn to bring awareness to what our minds and hearts are planning to do BEFORE we act. We need to slow down, pause and specifically look for the intentionality that precedes what we will do in the next moment. We are training ourselves to look forward! As one trains one’s mind to look for the intentionality slowly this will become an automatic and spontaneous action rather than a reflective process. We react instantly to a stimulus but this is followed by a natural pause that may allow for discerning reflection. It is in this pause that we can search for the intentionality. We can understand intentionality from the two perspectives of what one plans to do next and the reason for it.

Before we speak we actually will internally say what we are planning to say out loud in the next instant. We can choose to listen skillfully to become aware of what we plan to say next and the intentionality for our speech. Before we actually move there is a knowing of what we are going to do. We can bring specific awareness to the subsequent intended action of cutting of our food with a knife, standing up, lying down, going to the toilet, walking etc. Before our next thought we can become aware of the internal dialogue going on in our minds that reflects the current energy and inclination that can be predictive of what our next thought will be.

Awareness of intentionality can be supported by asking WAIT at the moment we become aware of what we are aware of.

WAIT

Why am I thinking this?

What am I trying to do?

Why am I talking

One needs to be intentional to look for the intentionality! Awareness of the intentionality of what we plan to do next creates an anticipatory mindfulness. This allows one to be prepared to specifically look for what is intended to happen next and choose how to respond rather than react.

Intentionality Exercise

One can help cultivate this preparatory mindfulness by intentionally choosing a movement, thought or speech and then bringing awareness to the subsequent actualized action. For example, I would think: “I am going to get up. I am going to scratch my nose. I am going to reach for the pen. I am going to say hello or ask a question of my friend who is with me. I am going to create an intentional thought about something.” One will then be prepared to witness and be engaged with the subsequent action. This will help to create a habit of bringing anticipatory mindfulness to the subsequent planned action.

The other option to practice this awareness is to bring an intentional awareness to what your mind wants to do in the next moment. Just wait and observe to see what your mind is going to ask of you. Then you are prepared to respond rather than react.


by Dr. Phil Blustein
May 2, 2024

MINDFULNESS

MINDFULNESS

Non-attachment or Detachment

The contemporary definition of mindfulness as suggested by Jon Kabat-Zinn is “Awareness of the present moment on purpose non-judgmentally.” The essence of the definition is in the word non-judgmental. Does this mean non-attachment or detachment?

When I hear non-judgmental what is evoked in me is a sense of separation and distancing in order to observe and restrain one’s natural inclination to judge. Merriam-Webster defines detachment as “The action or process of detaching, separation.” Cambridge dictionary defines it “as not being involved in a situation.” 

I don’t believe that the true intent of this definition of mindfulness is to be detached.

Mindfulness is a process of being in a skillful relationship with wisdom and compassion with the present moment. It is about “being” with what is present. Being engaged, intimate and fully feeling what is being experienced. But with non-attachment!

Mindfulness is about being non-attached. Non-attached to the sense of self that we create and is a temporary ephemeral conditioned construct. 

Can we be with the experience

Not the one that is having the experience


by Dr. Phil Blustein
April 19, 2024

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ANY MOMENT

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ANY MOMENT

What am I doing that I don’t like about myself?
What am I doing that you don’t like about yourself?

What are you doing that I don’t like about myself?
What are you doing that you don’t like about yourself?

Every moment is a dynamic dance between a judgment of other and oneself. What is the other person doing that reminds me of an action I don’t like about myself? What am I doing that I don’t like about myself? This meaning making is also performed by the other person we are in relationship with. We often miss the important factor of recognizing how our relationship in every moment is predominantly about seeing how it reflects on who we believe we are.

When confronted with self-criticism PAUSE and ASK THESE QUESTIONS!


by Dr. Phil Blustein
April 5, 2024

IS MINDFULNESS ABOUT A SILENT MIND

IS MINDFULNESS ABOUT A SILENT MIND

Some people believe that mindfulness implies having a silent mind. No thoughts! Let us be clear about this. The only way to have a silent mind is to be in a coma or dead. And that is not the intent of mindfulness. Our minds are thinking and meaning making machines and it is our natural human tendency to think. However, with continued practice of mindfulness there will be a progressive quieting of the constantly thinking mind. But the essence of mindfulness is not about a silent mind but how one is in relationship with the thinking mind. Can one be present with what is as it is without the meaning making referenced to one’s belief of one’s sense of self and identification with it? Can one be present with awareness, openness, engagement and allowing of the experience?

Mindfulness is Not Freedom from the Thinking Mind

But Freedom to be WITH the Thinking Mind


by Dr. Phil Blustein
March 21, 2024

IS FORGIVENESS NECESSARY

IS FORGIVENESS NECESSARY

If someone has acted in a way that is unskillful towards me then they have wronged me. They owe me an apology. Hopefully, I am able to forgive them for what they have done. Let us look at this more closely. The action has happened and one can’t change that. But the critical question is what is the true intent for their action? Every single one of us has a history about who we believe we are based primarily on unmet psychological needs and inner child wounding. Our stories and subsequent reactions play out automatically, spontaneously, autonomously and subconsciously. Every action is an attempt to make us feel safe, loved and worthy. Do you know what your next thought will be? What you will say? What you will do? It is questionable if we really have free will. What is happening is that our brains subconsciously process what is being experienced and then it comes into our consciousness. We believe we thought it but in reality, we are just aware of what our mind has already created.

We are all victims of our history. We act to compensate for our perceived deficiencies and inadequacies. From that perspective every action is skillful from a personal perspective. We are just trying to survive in this world.

More extreme behavior such as stealing, using drugs and alcohol to excess, harming others and acting without control are just behaviours and strategies that individuals learned in order to survive from what is often perhaps a more extreme history of physical, sexual and emotional abuse as a child.

In understanding this universal misguided intentionality, perhaps we don’t need to forgive someone for their actions but bring an understanding to why they have done what they have done. This understanding also applies to ourself. We are all the same in the sense that we act unknowingly.

If we just knew their and our own story there would be no need to forgive. In understanding that we act from a place of suffering, in response we would act from a place of compassion for self and other.

However, even though we act from an intention to survive, we are still responsible for our actions and need to express regret, take responsibility and act to make amends as indicated.


by Dr. Phil Blustein
March 8, 2024

Do We Need to Rewrite Our Stories or Just Listen to What They Have to Tell Us

Do We Need to Rewrite Our Stories or Just Listen to What They Have to Tell Us

We all have a story about who we believe we are. That defines us. What do we do with it? Do we rewrite our historic trauma to create a new “truth?” Do we fix what is wrong with us? I believe there is a potential problem in reframing our personal narrative. It is our wounded inner child that is talking to us that has felt not listened to and powerless. In reappraisal of our history this implies to our child that its belief about one’s wounding is not the truth. That there is a better way to be. That the child again is impotent. It is not credible or worthy of being listened to.

Healing occurs by the capacity to be present with what the child has to say. To just listen without resistance. With acceptance and openness. In holding of the story in this manner this lets the child know that it is safe, loved and worthy. That it is held with compassion and love. This offers the child the strength to be present with the critical stories knowing that there is a supportive presence to help. This allows for a progressive disentanglement from the held story that defines you. Perhaps what is being created is a new form of attachment with one’s parents that is kind and supportive.

In being willing to just listen without resistance to what is being said this reveals the nature of one’s wounding. It provides a wonderful insight to understand why you create your interpretation of the moment and how one is in relationship with it.

This is mindfulness. It is not about rewriting our story but creating the possibility for our child to safely tell its story in order to be heard, be with it and let it go.


by Dr. Phil Blustein
February 16, 2024

Surrender into the Silence

Surrender into the Silence

Does it seem that your mind is constantly thinking? Can there ever be a break from all those thoughts? It seems like it is a continuous uninterrupted barrage. Have you ever rested in silence? We react to what is unpleasant and want to deny or push away what is present. We react to what is pleasant and quickly are caught in the desire to have more of what we like. What we don’t do is establish sustained awareness of what is present. We don’t know what we know. If one looks closely one can identify that what one is experiencing is multiple individual thoughts that seem connected but are separated by a pause. If one sustains awareness of a thought until it ends what follows is not another instant thought but a pause of silence and stillness.

Surrendering into the silence can be very valuable. In observing that all thoughts come to an end this supports the insight of impermanence. In particular as one witnesses that the sense of self extinguishes, this helps foster non-identification with the sense of self. Why identify with what is impermanent?

Resting in the pause allows for the possibility of a reflective response rather than an automatic self-referential reaction.

Silence is not nothingness. Resting in silence allows for one’s intuitive innate wisdom and compassion to arise as it is not suppressed and hidden by one’s thinking mind. When faced with a problem, take a deep breath in, deliberately pause, rest in the silence and ask: “WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE” to allow for intuitive wisdom to appear rather than the subconscious automatic reaction to our unmet psychological needs.

The silence is a taste of the unconditioned as there is no conditioned thoughts present.

Initially the easiest way to practice this is when you are meditating. Follow the object of awareness such as your breath, thought, physical sensation until it comes to an end. Then deliberately focus on the space at the end of the sensation. Eventually this can be done during the day as you follow an experience until it dissolves.

We need to cultivate sustained awareness of what is present and surrender into the silence to be open to the mystery of what is revealed.


by Dr. Phil Blustein
February 1, 2024

LET IT GO

LET IT GO

Let it go to LET IT BE
Let it go to let it be to LET IT LET GO

One often hears in dealing with our experience to “let it go.” What is being let go of and what is letting go? In every moment there is a self-referential judgment of one’s experience against the belief system of who we believe we are and should act. A sense of self is created appropriate for each moment to act on one’s behalf to compensate for the unmet psychological needs. Our sense of self then appropriates awareness of the experience. In understanding how the sense of self is created and the nature of one’s relationship with the self through taking ownership of it, one is able to step back and let go of the identification with self. The Buddha stated that we cling to sensual desires, rights and rituals, views and opinions and the sense of self. I believe that ultimately it is about letting go of the sense of self. If there was no sense of self then who or what clings? What lets go is the non-self-referential awareness of our mind.

Once we let go of our identification with our conditioned constructed sense of self one can rest in the felt experiential somatic experience of the moment. As there is no resistance to what is present there is nothing to do but just be with what is.

In letting our experience be there is also a release in an internal sense. The mindful presence without resistance is offering implicit support and compassion for our created internal wounded child. The psychological child feels a greater measure of safety, love and worthiness. It can stay to a greater degree with the present moment self-criticism and judgment allowing for a progressive desensitization, disengagement and disentanglement with one’s traumatizing story. In staying with what is present without resistance this allows for the mobilization and release of the trapped somatic energy of our historic trauma. The child is able to let go of its story.

There is a progression from letting it (self) go, to letting it be (rest without resistance) to letting it (wounded child) let go.


by Dr. Phil Blustein
Jan. 19, 2024

How do You Measure Progress Along Your Path?

How do You Measure Progress Along Your Path?

Is it what you do or what you don’t do


Normally an internal or external stimulus arises and we are immediately reacting to it with self-criticism, shame, anger, joy. We are always in resistance with what is present and either want more or less of it. We are present with desire or aversion. This is the most obvious reaction to be aware of.

As we become more mindful there is a change in our relationship with the present moment. The initial reactive anger, sadness, shame, fear are present but one is able to be present with awareness, openness, allowing and just letting it be. One is following the middle way with nothing to do or not do. One can become aware of this lack of reaction to the present moment experience.

Ultimately, we progress to the point that we don’t even create an initial reactive response and creation of a sense of self to what is present in the moment. One is just present with what is independent of what one needs it to be, wants it to be and believes it to be. This non-reaction is the most difficult to be aware of as there is no sense of self that is in conflict with what is present. There is nothing to react to and nothing that reacts to it.

One needs to deliberately look for this. I become aware of what I don’t do when I am with other people who are reacting to what is present and I don’t even see that there is a problem. It is so informative to look to see what you don’t do!

by Dr. Phil Blustein
Jan. 4, 2024

Why do You Meditate?

Why do You Meditate?


Ask yourself the question: “Is meditation important?” The answer may be yes but I believe that for many of us: “It is really NOT that important!” We may be experimenting with this idea of meditation because someone says it is helpful or one learned about it from a news article or tv program. It is the current fad thing to do.

One believes that meditation will help with one’s anxiety and stress or quiet one’s thinking mind. These aspects are true but meditation can offer a lot more and recognizing that may be motivating to practice.

It changes the function of our brain to a top down rather than a bottom up approach. The pre-frontal cortex that is responsible for attention and self-regulation becomes more dominant than the amygdala that is the centre of fear. As we put in the practice the practice does us. We become more self-regulated. There is less that triggers us, we don’t react so violently and we recover quicker. We develop greater resilience. We become spontaneously and innately joyful independent of some external object or experience to make us happy. We experience a greater capacity for awareness. In seeing the everchanging nature of the breath and its impermanence we develop a greater insight into the true nature of reality that allows one to dis-identify with the self leading to a decrease in our suffering! A unified concentrated mind slows down the baseline cognitive activity allowing one to more clearly see experience with insight. With continual focus on one object we are less likely to rest in our Default Mode Network that is important in the creation of self and rumination. Our tendencies for greed, hatred and delusion decrease. As we become less identified with our sense of self we don’t need to defend our wounded ego as much. This opens one up to seeing the interdependence and interconnectedness of existence with a resultant greater compassion and empathy.

In appreciating the multiple benefits of meditation this can be the impetus for developing a more consistent and dedicated practice.

by Dr. Phil Blustein
Dec. 21, 2023

Why do You Get Up in the Morning?

Why do You Get Up in the Morning?

Is It Just to P?

Why do you get up in the morning? Is it to engage in the P’s of everyday activities that include People, Play and sense of Purpose in what you do that gives meaning to one’s life?

Do you connect with people out of a desire for intimate connection, capacity for meaningful conversation and to engage in similar interests or is it a need to prevent loneliness, obtain financial, technical or living support, to satisfy societal expectations of marriage and having children, or to share parenting?

Do you play in whatever way that means because it satisfies a personal passion, gives you joy or keeps you healthy or is it about the satisfaction of sensual desires through the material possessions and actions that society says you should own or do? To own a big house, have fashionable clothes, technology, an expensive car or go on an exotic vacation? To watch sport all day on the TV? Go out for a good meal at a restaurant? Play golf or ski? Listen to the current popular musician or go to their concert? To buy name brand merchandise because it makes you feel important and part of a larger group? Do these activities define who you believe you should be?

Do you go to work just to earn a living so that you can survive or if you are lucky, to enjoy a lifestyle that supports your desire for a big house, great vacation or material possession or does work or volunteering fulfill a meaningful need to express your talent or serve?

This is not to deny that we live in this world and pleasure from the things we do and relationships we have is important. But is there also a reason for existence that is greater than this need for satisfaction of sensual desires and to engage in activities that give life meaning? I believe it is to explore and examine the important question of Purpose beyond the daily activities of existence. Who am I and what am I supposed to do with this gift of life? What is the meaning of life? What is this all about? Living a meaningful life is different than exploring what is the Purpose or meaning of life.

I see it as the opportunity to create the conditions for a life of exploration, discovery and integration of who we are leading to wholeness and skillful action. Can one cultivate one’s authentic self? The capacity to bring awareness to and expression of what is one’s unique gift and talent in being human. Whether it is an expression of an athletic, artistic, dramatic, intellectual or caregiving calling. Can one cultivate one’s transcendent self? The ability to move beyond one’s conditioned constructed sense of self to the unconditioned presence of mindfulness that has innate compassion and wisdom. Can one cultivate one’s human self? The ability to recognize and appreciate the magic and mystery of being human in one’s ability to just see, hear, taste, touch, smell, and think. And also to see this same beauty in the animal and natural realm.

As Socrates said: “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

Can we integrate these various aspects of who we are and be present in life beyond one’s defended ego so that we can be in a mindful relationship with every experience and act from a place of wisdom, compassion, interconnectedness, interdependence, joy independent of external experience, non-harming, kindness, generosity and respect?

by Dr. Phil Blustein
Dec. 8, 2023

THE TRAGEDY OF EXISTENCE IS NOT THE CERTAINTY OF DEATH BUT THE FEAR OF FULLY LIVING ONE’S DYING LIFE

THE TRAGEDY OF EXISTENCE IS NOT THE CERTAINTY OF DEATH BUT THE FEAR OF FULLY LIVING ONE’S DYING LIFE

It is often said the greatest existential fear we have as being humans is the fear of death. However, is this the greatest tragedy of existence? Death is inevitable. This cannot change. Why waste one’s time in resistance of this inevitability. It is futile!

The real tragedy of existence is not the certainty of death but the fear of fully living one’s dying life. What does a dying life mean? The commonest cause of death is birth. Once you are born one is on the inevitable journey to death. Every moment is bringing one closer to death. We are always in the process of dying. I view dying time not just when one is in the actual physical process of dying but the time we live right now. To reflect as one having a dying life may sound morbid but it is also a wonderful opportunity to have a constant reminder that there is only so much time one has and it is important to live it fully.

Why are we frightened to live our life? We are trapped by our desire each moment to meet subconscious unmet conditioned psychological needs of our wounded inner child. We live a life of trying to compensate for perceived inadequacy and deficiency. We may view ourselves as being successful, independent and adult through the roles we assume and our material possessions. These are just masks that hide the calling of our child to feel safe, loved and worthy. We feel scared and powerless to live a life beyond the limitations of our personal narrative.

We live a life trapped by the uncritical adherence to live one’s life according to certain societal, religious, political, gender, educational, profession, age or race beliefs. To be unique and step out of the collective consciousness is a threat to one’s safety and the cohesiveness of the group.

We fail to recognize and express the potential of our unique innate gifts and passions and the magic of being human.

What fabricated truths do you live your life by?

We live a life limited by who we believe we need to be
Rather than who we are meant to be.

by Dr. Phil Blustein
Nov. 17, 2023

P’s OF OF A MEANINGFUL LIFE

P’s OF OF A MEANINGFUL LIFE

We often talk about the meaning of life that is indicative of what you see as the purpose of one’s existence. However, there is also the consideration of living a life of meaning, of fulfillment. I see this as an expression of the P’s!

PEOPLE
We are social animals and developing relationships with other is essential. It fosters a connection to help overcome loneliness and depression, allows for opportunities to express compassion, openness of heart and support and provides a forum to exchange and learn new ideas. We are so busy in our life that it can be difficult to find the time to create meaningful relationships.

Don’t wait. Find the time to connect with other.

PLAY
We are so driven as a society to believe that we need the big house, more exotic holiday, faster car, to go to the best and most expensive restaurant, up to date technology, fashionable clothing, to join the right club etc. In order to do this, we sacrifice play in order to work. What a mistake. We need to set the right priorities to have the balance between work and play. We cannot just be defined by the roles we assume.

What do you enjoy playing at? Do you make the time to do it?

PURPOSE
Personal
What do you believe is important to you? That gives you a sense of purpose? We are meaning making creatures! There is an innate drive to understand our life. We conventionally feel that there needs to be some meaning in our life to make it all worthwhile.

What overarching questions do you have about your existence? What passion or gift lives through you calling to be heard? Do you recognize, honor and cultivate it?

Read, watch videos, listen to podcasts, join groups, take courses and have discussions with your friends about your questions of life.

Public
What is also important is to cultivate a sense of purpose for how one can be in a skillful relationship with other ie. people, animals and the environment. An attitude of respect, kindness, compassion, non-harming and generosity is needed.

PRACTICE
To live a meaningful life requires effort to bring richness to it. Start your day by reflecting on what is meaningful to you as it relates to the P’s and how are you going to bring them into your life. At the end of the day reflect on how successful you were in doing this.

What also supports the P’s of a meaningful life is an acknowledgment and expression of gratitude for all the wonderful things in your life.

by Dr. Phil Blustein
Nov. 2, 2023

Carl Jung

Carl Jung

I am not what has happened to me
But what I choose to become


Unfortunately, the truth of human existence is:
I am what was has happened to me
I am destined to be what was chosen for me to become

We live the narrative of our maladaptive childhood attachments, societal expectations and subsequent traumas. Moment to moment we are living our life trying to compensate for underlying hidden unmet psychological needs that motivate us to act. If we don’t bring awareness and insight to the truth of reality and self we will be doomed to live an existence “walled in alive”. We will live our life limited by our unique personal narrative to try and keep us safe, loved and worthy.

by Dr. Phil Blustein
Oct. 20, 2023

Which Concentration Meditation is Best for You

Which Concentration Meditation is Best for You

Focused Awareness or Open Monitoring

Concentration meditation is based on two types of awareness. Focused awareness or Open Monitoring. In Focused Awareness one chooses a specific object to focus one’s attention on such as the breath, body, mantra, sound or visualization. Its value is that as one is focused on one object this tends to shut down the thinking mind and the Default Mode Network that leads to selfing. It also helps develop the capacity to be aware that is an essential part of mindfulness. This meditation practice can lead to a unified and concentrated mind that makes it easier to access insight or vipassana meditation.

The other form of concentration meditation is Open Monitoring. In this awareness practice there is no fixed object. One brings awareness to whatever one is conscious of. As we witness the constant changing flow of experience it illustrates the important teaching of impermanence. Conventionally our minds are so busy. We are constantly multi-tasking and thinking what we need to do next. The value of Open Monitoring Meditation is we are specifically creating the opportunity to develop awareness with how our thinking minds normally works, as opposed to focusing on a single object.

The problem with focused awareness is it can lead to drowsiness. If this is happening one could switch to the more energizing practice of open monitoring. The problem with open monitoring is that one can become overwhelmed with the multiplicity of stimuli. If one is becoming too scattered a focused awareness practice may help settle your mind down.

Initially it may be more advantageous to choose a focused awareness practice as one’s initial meditation. When you feel the mind has become stable this may allow one to more effectively practice open monitoring. One could do both types of practice in one setting or stay with one specific practice for as long as it works for you.

The key to this practice is to experiment and find what works best for you.

by Dr. Phil Blustein
Oct. 5, 2023

John Lennon

John Lennon

Life is what’s happening while we’re busy making other plans.

John Lennon
Sept. 26, 2023

What is the Essence of Mindfulness

What is the Essence of Mindfulness

The contemporary definition of mindfulness that is widely accepted is outlined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as: “Awareness of the present moment on purpose, in a particular way and non-judgmentally.” We can all recognize that we need to be aware of what is happening in order to be able to do something about it. However, is being non-judgmental with our experience the end point of mindfulness, or is there more to it?

Consider the example of losing one’s keys. There is the initial judgment of the act itself of losing the keys. One might say: “This is a problem. Where did I last remember having them? Where do I need to look? If the keys can’t be found what needs to be done?” An evaluation of a situation but no one to take the blame for the loss. But what do we do? We create a sense of self that is responsible for what has happened and needs to be punished. We now state: “I am so bad. I am so careless. How could I have done this. I am terrible.” There is no separation between the judgment of the action and the self.

We self-reference every experience against our personal belief system of who we believe our sense of self is and should behave. The belief system is based on unmet psychological needs and inner child wounding.

It is important to recognize that judging is not the problem in mindfulness. It is SELF-REFERENTIAL JUDGMENT leading to a creation of a sense of self that is the problem. There can be discernment of the present moment based on whether the moment is congruent with the intentionality of kindness, compassion, respect, non-harming and generosity, not unmet personal needs.

When we ask one to be non-judgmental, implicit with this is a sense of restraint. Mindfulness is not about holding back but engaging with what is present and experiencing it fully in a somatic sense.

When we ask one to be non-judgmental this implies that what we consider needs to be judged to be real and true or there would be no need not to judge. The truth of our reality and self is that it is a temporary ephemeral conditioned construct. There is no need to judge or not judge an illusion.

Mindfulness is how one is in relationship with the sense of self. Can we follow the middle way? There is no need to grab on or push away. No need to judge or not judge. Can we simply be with what is as it is. Nothing to do. It is about BEING with what is, not DOING with what is.

The essence of mindfulness is not about being non-judgmental but non-identification and ultimately no creation of the sense of self. If there was no interpretation of each moment referenced against the belief system of who we believe we are, there would be no suffering!

by Dr. Phil Blustein
Sept. 7, 2023

Every Experience is Neither Constructive or Destructive

Every Experience is Neither Constructive or Destructive

JUST INSTRUCTIVE

I was supposed to call someone and I forgot. When I remember later I criticize myself. “How disrespectful can I be. I treated my friend so bad. I am terrible. I am not a good friend. I am mean!”

Every moment we are constantly determining whether our action is good or bad? Right or wrong? Is this something that I want or don’t? We are always placing value on what we experience. We interpret the value of our actions as an index of our self-worth. What would life be like if we didn’t have to judge it? If we could see experience with an eye of equanimity. The segue to doing this is to not focus on the content of what is experienced but what it represents!

In the above example I judge myself. On the surface level it is about being a disrespectful adult. However, the reality is that since my childhood I have always had a need to be perfect in order to feel safe, loved and worthy. Failure in calling my friend triggered the memory of my inner child wounding. The core reason for the criticism is the belief that the action of the sense of self is at fault. Instead of judging whether our sense of self has acted in a way that is congruent or incongruent with who we believe we are, can we bring awareness and discernment into this process of selfing? Can we recognize that the intentionality of all experience is skillful as it is an attempt to keep one safe, loved and worthy.

Can we examine each moment to see what is being revealed about the foundation for our sense of self? It is neither positive or negative, just informative by pointing to our truth and what we can learn.

In each moment ask yourself:

What can I learn about myself from this moment?


by Dr. Phil Blustein
June 2, 2023

The Contemporary Definition of Mindfulness is Incomplete

The Contemporary Definition of Mindfulness is Incomplete

The contemporary definition of mindfulness as outlined by Jon Kabat-Zinn is: “Awareness of the present moment on purpose, in a particular way and non-judgmentally.” Is being non-judgmental with our experience the end point of mindfulness, or is there more to it? Originally from historic Theravada Buddhism one of the main goals of mindfulness was to act skillfully. This is one of the criticisms of our current understanding of mindfulness, that there is no comment on skillful or ethical behavior.

Apparently JKZ deliberately did not include acting skillfully in the definition. He stated: “Clinical psychologists want very linear and easy to understand definitions. One can’t understand mindfulness with your thinking mind. It is like a koan.” A koan is a puzzle that Zen Buddhists use in their practice to help reveal greater insights through non-conceptual intuition. That may be true, but most people who practice mindfulness are not Zen practitioners.

Ethical behavior in contemporary mindfulness of MBSR is said to be implicit, not explicit. Jon Kabat-Zinn commented on the ethics of MBSR and stated:

The ethical foundation of the practice is to be more implicit than explicit, and that it may be best expressed, supported, and furthered by how we, the MBSR instructor and the entire staff of the clinic, embody it in our own lives and in how we relate to the patients, the doctors, the hospital staff, everybody, and of course, how we relate to our own interior experience.

Contemporary Buddhism 2011, 12:1 Page 295 Some reflections on the origins of MBSR, skillful means, and the trouble with maps.
Jon Kabat-Zinn

He felt that the MBSR staff should model ethical behavior that will influence what the participants do. This is an unrealistic expectation that there will be uniformity in the instructors and their behaviour, intent and teaching style. Also people learn mindfulness from reading and apps without taking an MBSR course or having a teacher.


There also appears to be a faith in the action of the individual to act ethically.


First, it is inevitably the personal responsibility of each person engaging in this work to attend with care and intentionality to how we are actually living our lives, both personally and professionally, in terms of ethical behaviour. An awareness of one’s conduct and the quality of one’s relationships, inwardly and outwardly, in terms of their potential to cause harm, are intrinsic elements of the cultivation of mindfulness as I am describing it here.

Contemporary Buddhism 2011, 12:1 Page 294 Some reflections on the origins of MBSR, skillful means, and the trouble with maps.
Jon Kabat-Zinn

This also seems to be an unrealistic assumption and expectation. One could argue that for most people, one’s personal intent in taking Mindfulness is self-centered motivation in order to feel better personally. To relieve one’s stress. Not ethical behavior.

There needs to be explicit goals set out for what one is doing in order to guide the participants rather than relying on their personal responsibility and capacity to operate from ethics, and the guidance of the MBSR instructors through modeling of behavior.

People want a clear definition and roadmap that outlines what mindfulness is and what is its purpose. According to the definition it seems that the end point is to be non-judgmental. This explains how one is in relationship with the present moment but not what do you do next. The ultimate goal of mindfulness is not to be non-judgmental but to act skillfully in an ethical and non-harming manner. The contemporary definition of mindfulness is misleading!

It is imperative that the goal of ethical behavior as an end point be stated in the definition of mindfulness to help clearly guide the actions of the participants.


by Dr. Phil Blustein
May 19, 2023

Liberation is the Transformation from the Suffering of Being Me to the Freedom of Me Being

Liberation is the Transformation from the Suffering of Being Me to the Freedom of Me Being

Who do you believe you are? What relatively fixed beliefs do you hold about your sense of self? Do you see yourself as quiet, invisible, agreeable, submissive, the good boy or girl, guilty, shameful, powerful or demanding? We are a self-fulfilling prophecy of our personal narrative and constantly act to meet the expectations we hold of our personal image. Every moment the actions of our sense of self are interpreted if they are congruent or incongruent with how we believe we should be in this world. We suffer as we believe we are not perfect. We are constantly trying to meet the unmet needs of our conditioned history. We are our story.

Is this the only way we can be in this world? With repeated reflective practice and discernment there is the capacity to move beyond the conditioned construct of the sense of self and rest in one’s authentic self. This is a space of unification and wholeness. An integration of inner child wounding to rest in a sense of self that acts through non-self-referential discernment rather than self-referential judgment. Is the present moment an expression of ethics, morality, compassion, wisdom and non-harming?

To also rest in Presence or Self that exists beyond the conditionality of self. This embodies an innate compassion, wisdom, joy and interconnectedness. A space that allows for the expression of one’s unique gift calling to live through you. Can one just rest in this essence? Nothing to do. Just be!

We can suffer in BEING ME or rest in the contentment of ME BEING.


by Dr. Phil Blustein
May 10, 2023

The Beauty of Life is Seeing How “Awe Full” It is

The Beauty of Life is Seeing How “Awe Full” It is

We see a beautiful rainbow, mountains, sky, flowers etc. and the next time we see it, it has lost its impact. As humans we quickly habituate to what we experience. This may reflect a primitive biologic need for survival. If we become too engrossed in what we are experiencing we are no longer vigilant to a potential threat. We also make the assumption that it is the same and we know what it is. We become bored. “Nothing new here!” Unfortunately, we miss out on a lot. Just listen to people who have a life threatening illness with a shortened life span. They may often experience an appreciation and joy for every moment that they never had before. What is different? The way they view and are present for the moment! We have all experienced the awe of a majestic moment that seems greater than our human condition. Is it possible to see the awe in everyday experience that on the surface lacks the majesty of the vastness of one’s awe filled moments?

I believe it requires the cultivation of two components. First, we need to be aware of what is present. Conventionally we are not present to what we are experiencing. We multitask, always looking for the next sensory “hit.” We need to slow down. Focus on what we are experiencing. Be aware of what we are aware of. When we have the capacity to have continual awareness of what we are doing in the present moment, this helps to shut down the mental interpretation, amplification and rumination. We short circuit the default mode network of selfing.

Next there needs to be a cultivation of developing a different way to view experience. Value is not inherent to what is being experienced. It is superimposed by us onto what we are in relationship with. Initially we need to look for what is unique with what we are experiencing. Nothing is the same. Can we see the beauty manifesting in all that we experience? Can we see the interconnectedness of existence reflected in what we encounter? Can this be a reminder to have gratitude for one’s capacity to be able to be aware? Can we rejoice in being reminded of the fact that we are alive in this human existence moment to moment? Can we delight in the discovery of what is being revealed to us?

With every experience reflect:
How can I look to see how Awe Full this moment is?


by Dr. Phil Blustein
May 4, 2023

Are You Attentive or Mindful

Are You Attentive or Mindful

How often have you heard: “Be mindful when you eat, drink your tea or coffee, take a shower or bath, talk, walk etc.” There is mindfulness for sex, poker, work, sports, eating. The main emphasis seems to be on paying attention to what you are doing! Does this make a thief or sniper mindful? They are certainly focused. Is this what mindfulness is all about?

I believe that being attentive is confused as mindfulness. There is no question that the first aspect of mindfulness is to be aware. If one is not aware then one is trapped in the automatic reaction to what is happening and you can’t do anything about it. The problem is that there is no direction on what happens after you are aware. Mindfulness is multifaceted. It is about developing a skillful relationship with the present moment. There are multiple components present. Awareness, embodiment, compassion, insight into the true nature of reality and self leading to non-attachment to self and subsequent skillful and ethical action.

Be aware but just don’t stop there!


by Dr. Phil Blustein
March 21, 2023

How to get Off the Runaway Train Called Self

How to get Off the Runaway Train Called Self

I lose my keys and in a flash my mind is saying to me: “How stupid and careless can you be! What will you do now. You will never find those keys. You are hopeless.” Would I deliberately think and say this to myself? What a terrible way to treat anyone. Our minds work so fast that instantly the present moment is referenced against the belief of who I believe I am with self-judgement and criticism of one’s action. I create a sense of self appropriate for this moment to compensate for my inadequate behavior. As soon as I am aware of my problematic self I identify with it and carry on with further amplification and proliferation of the story of self. This all happens beyond my conscious control of what is happening. This is the way our minds normally work. This instantaneous reaction may just be an attempt for survival purposes. How to prepare oneself for the possibility of a threat.


What is interesting about our minds is the subsequent presence of a gap. Our thinking mind naturally slows once it has initially judged and we become aware of the created self of the moment. There is time to consciously decide how we are going to be in relationship with the self. Does one carry on with further storytelling and judgment of the self or step into mindful discernment. Perhaps this reflects our minds attempt to pause and reflect on what our minds initially and instantaneously have created to be sure it is skillful.

As you become aware of the process of mindfulness and the presence of the pause, there is a greater potential for the gap to become more obvious, well-defined and prolonged. It is important to be aware of the pause and cultivate it. Step into the gap and get off the runaway train called self.

Step into the Gap


by Dr. Phil Blustein
March 6, 2023

Is Awareness a Mirror or a Window

Is Awareness a Mirror or a Window

Awareness is a Mirror that reflects back who we believe we are

Mindfulness is a Window that lets us see who we really are

How do you see yourself? How do you really see yourself? We all have images about who we believe we are and the roles we act out in life. We believe we are strong or weak, introverted or extroverted, generous or selfish, kind or mean. Critically what underlies this image is our underlying belief system of who we are and how we should act in this world. What underlying unmet psychological needs are present that drive us to compensate for? It is this belief system through which we view each moment.

We interpret our experiences the way we believe it to be relative to our conditioned constructed sense of self. Conventional awareness is a mirror that reflects back who we believe we are. With mindfulness there is insight into the true nature of reality and self. As we deconstruct self, leading to non-attachment and ultimately no self creation, we are able to see experience through the transparency of a window. We see who we really are.


by Dr. Phil Blustein
Feb 27, 2023

Mindfulness as a Balancing Act

Mindfulness as a Balancing Act

What is mindfulness ultimately all about? Is it to enhance attention, relieve stress, act ethically or achieve enlightenment? From a greater perspective it may reflect our basic human desire for harmony and homeostasis. What often happens in any moment is that we are triggered and enter a state of dysregulation. Every moment is viewed from a basic biologic drive for survival and we react subconsciously with a fight, flight or freeze response. We create our reality moment to moment.

Experience is seen through the lens of our personal unique conditioned belief system in order to compensate for the perception that we are flawed and incomplete. How can we react to make us feel safe, loved or worthy? We are forced to then deal with our anger, fear, sadness, shame, guilt etc.

Mindfulness is a counterbalancing force to help self-regulate our out of control system. Through awareness, insight into the true nature of self and reality and self-compassion mindfulness can help to bring us back to our baseline level.

There is this wonderful interplay between what one subconsciously creates and how one responds to it. Mindfulness is about an inner balance. Harmony between the activated conditioned nature of mind and the rebalancing, re-centering and grounding of mindfulness that brings mind back from its agitated state. Unfortunately, our resting state may not be one of balance. Many of us exist in a chronically dysregulated state of agitation, stress and anxiety. It is possible that as we cultivate mindfulness, not only are we able to return to our resting state but allow for it to be reset to a more grounded stable level.

by Dr. Phil Blustein
Feb 8, 2023

The Dance of Mindfulness

The Dance of Mindfulness

Step In, Step Back, Step Up

Step In: One first needs to be aware of what is present. Once one knows what one knows there is an active engaged embodiment. This helps one to detach from our thinking mind. There is a stepping into what is happening to fully experience it through one’s body. It is important to sustain this awareness until one surrenders into silence and stillness. Embodiment is more than feeling a physical sensation. We are holding our inner child wounding trapped in our bodies with acceptance and compassion that slowly allows for its release and integration.

Step Back: It is the belief in the solidity of the sense of self that leads to our suffering. Through discernment one can investigate and see how our self is continually conditionally constructed based on trying to meet our unmet psychological needs. The illusory nature of self is recognized. This allows for one to step back and non-attach to the sense of self.

Step Up: As one does not identify with the sense of self and ultimately does not create a sense of self, there is a stepping up. There is a transcendence of one’s conditional self into Presence. Unconditioned innate compassion and wisdom.

by Dr. Phil Blustein
Jan 6, 2023

More Mindful Musing

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Carl Jung

“I am not what has happened to meBut what I choose to become“ Unfortunately, the truth of human existence is:I am what was has happened to meI am destined to be what was chosen for me to become We live the narrative of our maladaptive childhood...

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The contemporary definition of mindfulness as outlined by Jon Kabat-Zinn is: “Awareness of the present moment on purpose, in a particular way and non-judgmentally.” Is being non-judgmental with our experience the end point of mindfulness, or is there more...

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We see a beautiful rainbow, mountains, sky, flowers etc. and the next time we see it, it has lost its impact. As humans we quickly habituate to what we experience. This may reflect a primitive biologic need for survival. If we become too engrossed in what we are...

Are You Attentive or Mindful

How often have you heard: “Be mindful when you eat, drink your tea or coffee, take a shower or bath, talk, walk etc.” There is mindfulness for sex, poker, work, sports, eating. The main emphasis seems to be on paying attention to what you are doing! Does...

How to get Off the Runaway Train Called Self

I lose my keys and in a flash my mind is saying to me: “How stupid and careless can you be! What will you do now. You will never find those keys. You are hopeless.” Would I deliberately think and say this to myself? What a terrible way to treat anyone. Our...

Is Awareness a Mirror or a Window

Awareness is a Mirror that reflects back who we believe we are Mindfulness is a Window that lets us see who we really are How do you see yourself? How do you really see yourself? We all have images about who we believe we are and the roles we act out in life. We...

Mindfulness as a Balancing Act

What is mindfulness ultimately all about? Is it to enhance attention, relieve stress, act ethically or achieve enlightenment? From a greater perspective it may reflect our basic human desire for harmony and homeostasis. What often happens in any moment is that we are...

The Dance of Mindfulness

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