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Neuroscience Learns What Buddhism Has Known For Ages: Mindfulness

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Mindfulness is defined as an attention training which can benefit health and general well-being. There is a lot scientific research confirming it. In this article we will present the other type of attention training called Open Focus. We believe, combining these two approaches may help to understand attention training better and to experience its benefits faster.

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What Is Mindfulness?

In its most basic form, Mindfulness means to pay attention to what’s happening, on purpose, in the present moment, and to do so without judgement. Originally from Buddhist roots, it was introduced into the West by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zin and the University of Massachusetts. Since its appearance in the West around twenty years ago, many people have participated in the Mindfulness based stress reduction course and similar programs. Research shows that participants may experience profound benefits such as reduced stress, a greater sense of well-being, increased clarity and focus, and improved sleeping patterns.

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According to Dr. Kabat-Zin, by paying attention in a certain way, we can switch off our so-called autopilot mode, in which we often go through life unaware of what’s happening within and around us. Living on autopilot not only means that we miss out on a lot of the richness of life, but we are also more likely to be stressed. Stress and autopilot are linked because when we are on autopilot, we are much more likely to act out unhelpful or even damaging patterns of behaviour. In other words, we react instead of respond to challenging experiences in our life. Mindfulness helps us to become aware of these habitual patterns and gives us a choice to change how we relate to challenging experiences. It’s not about taking stress away or hoping to live a life without any stress, but rather fundamentally changing how we relate to the things we experience.

On the other hand, many of us spend much of our time living in our heads. We live in a kind of virtual reality consisting of thoughts and inner dialogue, and thoughts tend to relate either to the past or to the future. Mindfulness helps us to learn how to return to the present and to what’s actually happening rather than our perceptions of what’s happening, which are often inaccurate. We practice it by cultivating greater somatic awareness — that is, awareness of the body, because the body is always in the present moment.

Ultimately, the more we practice Mindfulness and observe the changing nature of experience, the more we may begin to sense that what we previously thought of as being tangible and solid, such as our sense of self, is actually quite transitory and ephemeral. We may begin to understand what lies beyond objects arising in awareness such as sensations, thoughts, and emotions. We may begin to experience awareness itself. This is an extremely significant moment in practice and in life, when we start to experience ourselves as something greater than what we observe and our sense of being the observer.

In Mindfulness, attention generaly focuses on one object (such as the breath, sensations in the body, thoughts, or emotions), exploring it with a sense of curiosity and interest. Another way Mindfulness can be practiced is through Open Monitoring or Open Awareness, where no particular object of experience is selected and there is an openness to all that is unfolding within awareness. Here too, however, as various objects pass through awareness, attention is often paid to each object in a narrowly focused wa

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What Is Open Focus?

Open Focus is the name of an attention training program created by Dr. Lester Fehmi, a neuroscientist and psychologist from Princeton University. Dr. Fehmi found that once our whole brain activity becomes more synchronous in alpha frequency, our mental and physical health improves. He created a series of mind exercises that help to cultivate this brainwave pattern, and he designed a neurofeedback EEG machine that can detect it.

On the basis of his findings, Dr. Fehmi developed The Four Attention Styles theory, which describes four different ways we can pay attention, and relates these styles to brain physiology.

According to Dr Fehmi, pain, stress, anxiety, and other challenges make our attention narrow and objective. It is natural to narrow our attention (focus) on pain or a problem in order to deal with it efficiently, but most people overuse this style in everyday life. They are unaware that it keeps them in continuous ‘fight or flight’ mode (see this post). Moreover, habitual focusing creates an impression that the reality consists of separated objects, since we can focus on only one thing at a time, leaving the rest outside of our focus. It can make us feel distant, alienated, and lonely.

Dr. Fehmi says we can begin relating to what’s difficult in a more balanced, accepting way by diffusing our attention. Diffusing allows us to see the big picture and connect (immerse) with its elements. It helps to realign with the world and to create healthy relationships. This style is linked to the ‘rest and digest’ part of our physiology and makes the whole brain activity more synchronous in alpha frequency, which can be confirmed by Dr. Fehmi’s machine (see graph below).

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Dr. Fehmi suggests everyone’s attention should be flexible, meaning that you can alternate between ‘narrow and objective’ and ‘diffused and immersed’ styles of attention or balance all at the same time. Dr. Fehmi says that the way we pay attention is directly linked to our well-being. Once you are able to balance your attention, you can positively influence your mind and body.

During Open Focus training, we practice diffusing by becoming simultaneously aware of many objects. The object can be everything you can focus on, like a physical object, a sound, a taste, a thought, a feeling, a sensation from the body, etc. Then you can progress to awareness of the space between objects, like the space between physical objects, the silence between sounds, or the breaks between thoughts, etc. Finally, you become aware of space between and inside objects which, according to Dr. Fehmi, helps us achieve diffused and immersed style. In this style of attending, all objects (including yourself) dissolve in space and you immerse with reality, becoming fully connected.

Are Mindfulness and Open Focus Complementary?

Open Focus and Mindfulness are not distinct and competing practices but rather highly complementary.

Mindfulness helps us to learn to pay attention to our experience and to notice how we are relating to it. Open Focus then builds upon the benefits and skills of Mindfulness by training us not just to pay attention, but to be more aware of how we are paying attention and to be more flexible in our attention styles.

We then have the benefits of two complementary practices available to us: learning to pay attention and being flexible in how we pay attention. We could say that Mindfulness is an excellent foundation for Open Focus training and that Open Focus helps us to get the most from Mindfulness training.

What Can Open Focus Offer Mindfulness?

As mentioned, much Mindfulness practice is based on a narrow way of paying attention (that is, we are focused on one object). Although it is useful in helping us to be more aware of what is happening in the moment, overusing this style may lead to tightness and overexertion in unexperienced practitioners, since many people think they have a choice of staying watchful (mindful) of what is happening, or they slip into daydreaming. They keep trying harder and it makes them exhausted and it sometimes leads to frustration and disappointment.

We therefore propose that Open Focus can bring to Mindfulness the idea of paying attention in the diffused style and the concept of attention flexibility.

Mindfulness practitioners who learn how to diffuse their attention may find that it helps them to progress. There are several reason for this.

The diffused attention style tends to quickly quiet internal chatter. For example, it is sometimes enough to become aware of sensations coming from both hands and at the same time to sense peace and calmness of the mind. It is because synchronous alpha brain waves play a top-down inhibitory role in the brain network. The quiet mind makes observing without judgment much easier.

In diffused attention style, you do not redirect your attention from one object to another, but  rather redistribute it between many objects, which are attended at the same time. The only way to do it is to attend objects in a very soft (less rigid, relaxed) way. This skill can then be used in everyday life. For example, you can stay continuously aware of breathing while listening to someone talking to you and there is no struggle between competing objects in your awareness. It helps to continuously sense the present moment and it has very practical applications (see this post).

It is important to note that in this style, one of the objects you pay attention to could be your daydreaming. Including daydreaming into the diffused attention helps to reduce struggle with it during practice. It is possible (and quite easy) to accept daydreaming as one of many objects you pay attention to (see this post). It can be easily extended to everyday life and it helps to stay present.

In order to become fully aware of the world, it can be helpful to cultivate a more diffused than focused attention style. Focused attention requires one to cut off a lot of what is really happening around us and it restricts experience to a narrow stream of sensations. In the diffused attention style, you are aware of the object and its background (see this post). This may broaden the perspective, helping to put things into context. It may also help to disable an autopilot and develop one’s ability to respond as opposite to reacting.

 As mentioned previously, Open Focus exercises cultivate an awareness of space around and inside objects. Once a practitioner is aware of space inside the object, it may become softer, lighter, and easier to be with and observe (for example when we attend an unwanted emotion). By switching to a diffused attention style, the difficulty may be diluted by a broader spectrum of attention. This could be likened to putting a teaspoon of salt in an egg cup filled with water and tasting it — the water would taste very salty. If the same teaspoon of salt were put in a swimming pool, it would be difficult to taste the salt. Mindfulness enables us to be aware that there is salt in the water, but Open Focus allows us to experience the salt in the context of the swimming pool rather than the egg cup!

The diffused and immersed attention style helps to dissolve objects like pain or unwanted feelings. Mindfulness practitioners are sometimes encouraged to bring attention to an ache in the back and to observe how this ache feels, exploring how it would be to allow the ache to be there. In Open Focus, they might feel the ache but at the same time feel the space around and in the ache together with the space in the room. In addition, they might imagine that we are part of the ache itself, allowing themselves to become immersed in the ache. This sometimes makes the pain or feeling softer, blurred with its background, and then it may naturally and effortlessly dissolve. The dissolving pain and unwanted feelings process is well documented in Dr Fehmi’s book.

Conclusion

Mindfulness teaches us to pay attention to our experiences so that we can interrupt habitual patterns of relating to ourselves and the world that may not be helpful for us. Open Focus enhances Mindfulness practice by teaching us not just to pay attention, but to bring more awareness to how we are paying attention.

As this article has demonstrated, these are two highly complementary and mutually reinforcing practices. Ultimately, with both we can learn to be present and be flexible in how we are present, after which we may uncover an unlimited sense of peace and love that lies beneath the ‘noise’ that we are usually confronted with and try to suppress.

In scientific terms, this may be regarded as homeostasis; in more spiritual language, this may be regarded as revealing our true nature or higher self. These practices may lead us to fulfil our personal and evolutionary potential and to live lives with grace and ease.

How You Can Try Mindfulness and Open Focus

We could write a lot but more about Mindfulness and Open Focus, but the best way to know them is to feel them!

You can try some good Mindfulness exercises here: Breathing Into Being, Taking In The Good, Self Compassion.

There is a choice of Open Focus exercises on Dr Fehmi’s and Tomasz’s website (the main difference is that most of Tomasz’s exercises are shorter and they are designed to introduce diffusing and to bring a quick and noticeable experience).

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This article was written with Mrs. Sarah Gulland a Mindfulness teacher who works from London, Guildford and Sussex.

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Blue Moon In Taurus: Surprises & Obstacles

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We are having a Full Moon in Taurus on October 31st for the majority of the world, and in the early hours of November 1st in New Zealand and some Australian time zones. It will appear the brightest on the night of the 30th for most of the Americas, and on the night of the 31st elsewhere. This is the peak of the Lunar cycle that began with  New Moon In Libra on October 16th/17th, as some of the themes of that lunation are still in effect.

This is the second Full Moon of October for the majority of the world, making it a calendar ‘Blue Moon’.  Although it is not super rare, it is still something that only happens every 2-3 years or every 30 Full Moons on average. We associate Blue Moons with rare occurrences and happenings, hence the phrase ‘once in a Blue Moon’. I personally find this to have some truth to it  and I would expect this to be the case for this one considering the planetary configurations.

The energies of a Full Moon are strongest in the days surrounding it yet its astrological configurations also play a part over the following two weeks. You may start to see its themes slowly build up after the New Moon prior.

Full Moons are a period in which we feel a push-pull between two opposing signs, in this case being the Moon in Taurus and the Sun in Scorpio. It can play out as either a conflict, an integration, or some sort of dynamic playing out between the energies of both signs. The Moon reflects the expression of feeling and emotion while the Sun reflects the expression of ego and conscious self.

We may feel this opposition happening individually within us and/or we can also experience it play out around us with some people (or circumstances) expressing the Taurus side and others expressing the Scorpio side. In some cases, Full Moons can also reflect/trigger some sort of change or release.

Taurus is an Earth sign ruled by Venus. It is associated with values, worth, the material world, sensuality, money, food/substances, security, beauty, art, and nature. It is physically oriented, practical, thorough, and realistic. It is like a rock; slow, grounded, and solid. Negatively, Taurus energy can be lazy, habitual, greedy, possessive, stubborn, materialistic, overly self-indulgent, and very slow.

Scorpio is a Water sign traditionally ruled by Mars and associated with Pluto. It is about power, transformation, intensity, sexuality, passion, regeneration, hidden matters, depth, as well as shared or owed resources and money. It is emotionally oriented, intuitive, primal, complex, calculated, mysterious, and is associated with shadows and the unconscious. Negatively Scorpio energy can be vengeful, manipulative, compulsive, obsessive, and fearful.

Full Moon Conjunct Uranus

This Full Moon is aligned with Uranus which brings a whole other dynamic to the equation which can also override some of the Taurean themes of stability, routine, and rigidity. Uranus is unpredictable and can bring surprises, shake ups, breakthroughs, sudden happenings, rebellion, and sometimes even accidents.

It is revolutionary, innovative, scientific, metaphysical, non-conforming, awakening, insightful, exciting, and bring new experiences. Uranus is associated with originality, freedom, change, and revolution. It can also reflect losses and separations.

The unusualness of Uranian energy coincides well with ‘Blue Moon’ themes and can be viewed as a planetary representation of a Blue Moon experience. The Uranian themes mentioned here may also be in conflict with the Scorpio themes/energies mentioned in the previous section.

Taurus Ruler Venus in Libra, Opposite Chiron 

Venus, the ruler of this Full Moon, is in its other home sign Libra at this time. When placed here there can be an emphasis on balance, equality, harmony, diplomacy, compromising, beauty, and art when it comes to love, relationships, social matters, values,  pleasures, finances, and aesthetics.

It is moving towards an opposition to Chiron in Aries, which is strongest on November 1st. Our wounds, pain, blockages, or negative patterns can come up in/through our social or romantic interactions. Imbalances or complications around integration can also play out in our relationships. Insecurities around beauty, appearance, likeability, or attractiveness, may be triggered. Issues around values or finances may be a theme as well.

The best way to utilize this period is to reflect on these areas from a personal development and self-growth perspective. Whatever comes up at this time can be trying to show us something about ourselves, or others, that can be improved upon.

Mercury Going Direct Soon, Mars Near End of Retrograde, Jupiter Conjunct Pluto

Mercury has been retrograde since October 13th/14th, in Scorpio and Libra, which will be ending on November 3rd/4th. It will slowly begin to move forward again over the following days and gradually pick up speed throughout much of November. From November 6th onward into the subsequent weeks, we can begin to have more clarity and a better sense of how to proceed in certain areas of our lives that have been affected by the retrograde.

As Mercury transitions its motion, it will be in  Libra and in a square with Saturn while close to the benefic star Spica. This echoes similar themes and energies of the previous New Moon. This can reflect obstacles, complications, restrictions, struggles, and emphasizes the stopped energy of a stationary Mercury. However its conjunction with Spica can also reflect fortunate circumstances as well, which can be coinciding with the Saturnian energy mentioned.

Mars in Aries is in its final two weeks of being retrograde which began in the 2nd week of September. It will go stationary direct on November 13th/14th. At this time and on the days before and after, we can expect Mars energies to be really strong in some ways. Anger, aggression, passion, or sexual expression, can be amplified.

We may feel like we have to take some sort of action, but potentially can be faced with things preventing that due to the stationary position. We may also feel a build up of pent up energy that may need to get released over the following weeks, reflective of Mars gradually picking up speed in forward motion.

As Mars is in its stationary and transitioning phase, Jupiter will make its final conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn. This energy will be present from November 5th-19th and peak from November 10th-16th. It can be a time of revealing hidden matters, shadows, and darkness. Jupiter’s expansiveness can affect Pluto themes and energies such as fear, abuse, revenge, power dynamics, transformation, destruction, death, rebirth, sexual desire, or obsessions. For some people, this can manifest as financial benefit.

I recently did a video talking about the upcoming US election and mentioned how this energy ties into it. You can watch it below.

Things To Consider

Do you feel like you need to make a radical change in an area of your life? Is there anything you need to liberate yourself from? How can you better tap into your authenticity? Is there anything that you want to experiment with? What has come up for you in recent weeks, especially from October 24th-26th? How should you take that into consideration in figuring out how you need to proceed? What are your true values and how do they differ or mesh with the values of others in your life? What are your relationships showing you about what needs to be improved upon?

These are just some examples of themes that could come up during this period; however, there may be other variations of this energy playing out as well.  If you wish to do any sort of intentional release connected to what has come up at this Full Moon, it is best to do so anytime over the two weeks following when it is waning. The exact moment of this Full Moon is at 2:49pm Universal Time on October 31st. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

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Manifesting Your Vision Through “The Law of Attraction”

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The Law of Attraction is based on the principle that all matter is made up of pure energy, which is in a constant state of vibration and spin.

The LOA implies that thoughts and emotions are also energy, each having a unique energy signature. Every energetic frequency is in a constant state of attraction or repulsion with all others. With the recent emergence of quantum mechanics, this notion has been largely supported at a micro level.

The Law of Attraction states that “like attracts like,” and we are in a constant state of creating our reality through the energy we emit in the form of thoughts and emotion. We continuously interact with the fabric of reality (or quantum field), through thought and emotional energy, and whatever we focus on is likely to manifest. We are each creators of our own reality, and what we put out is what we will attract.

3 Things You Need to Know First

1. A key factor missing from the LOA is that we are creating on both a conscious and subconscious level. This accounts for the seeming contradiction between “opposites attract” and the major principle of LOA, “like attracts like.”

We are still attracting the part of the whole that has been splintered and repressed into the subconscious mind. Basically, the actively repressed traits within ourselves are still charged, and this suppressed energy is also a point of attraction. Until we acknowledge and integrate it, it will still play a role in the creation of our external reality.

2. Our belief systems alter our manifestation process. If you want to manifest $10,000 in one week, but your underlying beliefs are largely identified with a state of lack, you will only manifest more lack.

This is because Law of Attraction works with both thought and emotion, and if you try to think your way into something that you don’t believe, your emotional reaction will support your unconscious beliefs more than your conscious thoughts.

If you try to affirm, “I will be abundant,” but don’t believe it, those beliefs will surface via an emotional response that insinuates the opposite feeling. At that point, you are literally putting the gas and the breaks on at the same time, making manifestation very difficult.

One great tip to overcome this, as stated by Abraham Hicks, is to “start general, and then get specific” with your manifestation process. Start with what you can believe, and continue to expand as you see evidence of your manifestations taking place. This allows your thoughts and emotions to be in resonance rather than dissonance.

3. We are always manifesting according to our highest values. Renowned behavioural development specialist Dr. DeMartini (who was also featured in The Secret) discovered that we all have an inherent set of values that is largely governing our behaviour. DeMartini is quoted as saying, “All of our actions are strategies to align with our values as efficiently as possible,” along with, “all of our positive and negative emotions are feedback as to whether or not we are living in our highest values.” Essentially, the things we value the most filter our perception at a subconscious level. They are governing the way that we manifest, and the reasons we do.

This is why, for example, someone might set a new year’s resolution to lose weight and never achieve their goal. If one of their highest values is social connection, their unconscious will perceive that taking the time to exercise and eat right actually conflicts with the time they would rather be spending at social events with others.

The trick, then, is to change your perception by tying in how exercise and diet actually support your high value on social connection. For example, you might feel more confident meeting new people when you are healthy and strong. Or you can approach it from the other end by tying your value into your goal. In this case, you could try to engage your value of social connection by going to the gym or to nutrition classes with your close friends.

What You Need to Know During Active Manifestation

These are some useful tips if you are meditating on your vision, or practicing visualization.

Clear your mind. To speed up the process of manifestation, presence and focus are key. If your attention is scattered, your manifestation will be too. Write down on paper whatever is bothering you, and vow to leave it outside of your visualization. This will help you stay present.

Open your heart for the process. Connect with the feeling of gratitude as you begin. This can be done by writing a short gratitude list, or by thinking of people/events that you are truly grateful for.

According to the HeartMath Institute, “The heart generates an electromagnetic field roughly 60 times greater in amplitude than brainwaves do.” This field is measured by an electrocardiogram (ECG), and brainwaves were measured using an electroencephalogram (EEG) during these findings. The heart is a major point of attraction.

Be clear. The law of attraction is described as a law. This means it responds to everything, without exception. If you are mixed in your emotions or vision, it will slow the process. The clearer and more detailed you are, the faster your vision will come to life.

Engage your senses. Did you know that the brain can’t actually tell the difference between experience and visualization? This is why visualization is so useful for athletes. This principle applies directly to the LOA. What do you see, hear, smell, touch, and feel when you have arrived at your vision? Feel each sense distinctly, and don’t be afraid to sit with each one individually.

Engage emotion. This is how to charge your vision. Emotions are the driving force behind manifestation.

Align your intention with your values. Tie what you want to manifest into your highest values. More simply put, make sure you can see how your goals support the things that matter most to you in life. This will help you manifest congruently from both the conscious and subconscious mind.

Don’t be desperate. Try to imagine that you are gently requesting. If you are being needy or desperate in your request, you are coming directly from an emotional space of lack. The emotional feeling of lack will counteract your thought-energy, and you are more likely to stagnate.

What You Need to Know After

Take action. Taking action will create momentum, while also building evidence toward creating the belief that your manifestation is unfolding.

Act as if it has already happened. “I AM” is a creative, powerful phrase. If you conduct your behaviour as the person you have already become, you are more energetically aligned with your goal.

Be aware of your internal dialogue. Remember, you are in a constant state of attracting or repulsing what it is that you want to achieve. Your internal dialogue is always creating a point of attraction, along with the emotional reactions it produces. Be congruent!

Allow! You must fully release your vision in order for it to manifest. If you are too attached to it, your need for control can actually stunt the process. Faith and belief in the process are key. It can be helpful to think in terms of being at a restaurant. Once you’ve placed your order, you have to give it time to be cooked up and served to you!

We are all creators, and we all deserve to live an inspired life. The Law of Attraction is a beautiful tool that enables us to consciously put our creative powers to use! In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.”

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My Thoughts On “Spiritual Narcissism”

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Narcissism, in a nutshell, is self-absorption to the extent that it will adopt any set of rationale to protect the ego which often includes a degree of self-deception. Is this happening to many in spiritual trends?

  • Reflect On:

    There is authentic being, and then there is self-absorption which pretending to be authenticity, are we aware of the difference?

We humans often have a hard time finding middle ground. We may be drowning in lack of self-worth one moment, and trampling over other’s with our own self indulgence the next as we struggle to find balance. Narcissism is not simply about enjoying selfies in our social media-saturated world, it goes deeper than that.

It appears as liberation but is a trap that can ruin relationships, increase personal suffering, and keep a person from their true spiritual aspirations. Not surprisingly, increased mindfulness and compassion for this tricky human quirk is the best way to heal it.

What is Spiritual Narcissism?

The capacity to become overly self-indulgent is within all of us, and it becomes increasingly dangerous when we confuse it with spirituality. In many ways it is easy to see that all of humanity is dealing with a certain degree of self-absorption while we desecrate forests and oceans, causing plants and animals to go extinct on our material quests. In his famous book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Chogyam Trungpa gave a good foundation for westerners to navigate the pitfalls of our materialistic abundance.

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The capacity to become overly self-indulgent is within all of us

We do not have to be ashamed of what we are. As sentient beings we have wonderful backgrounds. These backgrounds may not be particularly enlightened or peaceful or intelligent. Nevertheless, we have soil good enough to cultivate; we can plant anything in it. – Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

There is a difference between ego-self and the deeper universal soul within us, differentiating the two is important. Sadly, we have spiritual philosophies and religions that have been constructed to feed the ego, inflate self-righteousness, and create division while giving justification for all manner of activities including killing, exploitation, and oppression. Ethical conduct, regardless of spirituality, requires honoring the other and the self as one with each deserving to be respected, heard, and seen with compassion.

No matter what the practice or teaching, ego loves to wait in ambush to appropriate spirituality for its own survival and gain. – Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

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There is a difference between ego-self and the deeper universal soul within us

Finding the Antidote to Self-absorption

Narcissism, in a nutshell, is self-absorption to the extent that it will adopt any set of rationale to protect the ego which often includes a degree of self-deception. Ego is an important aspect of our selves, it is part of self-preservation but when it becomes out of balance it actually has the ability to destroy us and harm relationships.

Many spiritual practices seek to increase our ability to witness and bring mindful awareness to ego drives which allow us to master, instead of being enslaved by our ego. When ego gets too big it can be hard to swallow, yet spiritual liberation invites us to expand our sense of self beyond the ego, beyond time and space.

The goal is to find a balance between the inner experience and the outer reality. How do we embody healthy self-love without becoming an ego-maniac and hurting personal relationships? Meanwhile, self-loathing, and low self-esteem are also manifestations of ego out of balance. Selflessness can often be quite selfish, over-engagement can be as problematic as disengagement socially. Luckily we are here to find this balance through living fully, from making mistakes, and evolving our sense of self-awareness. Healthy self-awareness is the only antidote to self-absorption.

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How do we embody healthy self-love without becoming an ego-maniac?

The Story of Narcissus and Echo

One day Narcissus was walking in the woods when Echo, an Oread (mountain nymph) saw him, fell deeply in love, and followed him. Narcissus sensed he was being followed and shouted “Who’s there?”. Echo repeated “Who’s there?”. She eventually revealed her identity and attempted to embrace him. He stepped away and told her to leave him alone. She was heartbroken and spent the rest of her life in lonely glens until nothing but an echo sound remained of her. Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, learned of this story and decided to punish Narcissus. She lured him to a pool where he saw his own reflection. He didn’t realize it was only an image and fell in love with it. He eventually recognized that his love could not be reciprocated and committed suicide. -Wikipedia

Since intention is subjective, a person is often understood within their community by their actions or image. This becomes extra tricky in our age of social media and the materialism that has found it’s way into yoga, meditation, and spirituality. It is possible to put on a good act, to fool those around us and ourselves (temporarily).

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Narcissus mesmerized by his own reflection

We can have the latest yoga clothes, read the right books and hang out with all the “cool” people, but if our actions are not grounded in a deeper spiritual practice, basic consideration for others, and respect, it is still hollow. A common analogy is the guy who everyone likes but then goes home kicks his dog, or is rude and unaccountable to his wife.

Deep spirituality makes us more sensitive to the feeling of others, encouraging an open stance of courage where we can drop our protective shields and accept the vulnerability to be seen as we are. Narcissistic sensitivity, however, is focused solely on the subtle nuances one’s own internality, and resists looking at hard, uncomfortable truths that may upset the self image. One who is narcissistically sensitive is easily offended by the “coarseness” of others, seeks to make his environment change to align with the contours of his needs, and gets angry or offended when this does not happen. -The Allure of Narcissistic Spirituality, Huffington Post

How to Identify Narcissistic Behavior

The ability to identify narcissistic behavior in yourself and others is the best way to heal it. It is not your job to diagnose others or tell them they are narcissistic if they are not interested in hearing it or healing it. However, if you draw appropriate boundaries for them you will protect yourself and encourage them to become more mindful. This is a loving and compassionate way to handle narcissism.

Alt text hereThe ability to identify narcissistic behavior in yourself and others is the best way to heal it

It is always healthy to make boundaries and speak your truth in a loving and compassionate way. Whether the narcissist hears it or not is out of your control. Common responses from narcissists will include belittling your feelings, a hollow apology without effort to modify behavior, or ignoring you altogether. Basically, they will use any excuse they can in order to not look at it, or to make the situation your fault. This is your cue to make appropriate boundaries for yourself.

Within yourself be open and receptive when others tell you that you have been inconsiderate of them. Accepting constructive feedback from loved ones is a great way to keep a balance between internal needs and external relationships. This is also how we grow as individuals.

Common traits of narcissism courtesy of BPD Central.

  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Alt text hereLearning to stop keeping all the love for ourselves

Evolving Unhealthy Patterns

Hopefully, this will help you navigate tough interpersonal relationships and also better yourself. It is a beautiful thing that psychology is allowing us to have terms to identify and evolve unhealthy patterns emotionally. As we learn to live in community, we learn many aspects of love. This is how we help ourselves and those around us grow!

I’m republishing,  for the CE audience, this piece I wrote for Uplift Connect.

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