12 Nov If you think happiness is about learning to be present then you’ll want to read this…
by Melanie Greenberg for Psychology Today
New research on the brain in the past 10 years has shed a light on how much past experience and the desire to avoid pain shapes our brain pathways. Our brains were designed first and foremost to help us survive and pass on our genes, and therefore have automatic negative biases and orientations towards danger. We automatically scan our worlds for past mistakes we dare not repeat and future threats we try desperately to avoid and prepare to deal with. In so doing, we lose touch with present-moment experience and limit our abilities to spontaneously experience positive states such as joy, connection, and love. Teaching ourselves to focus on the present moment can train our brain pathways towards more deliberate and positive experiencing.
The Pros and Cons of “Doing” Mode
John Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction therapy suggests that our brains operate primarily in “Doing” Mode. We actively use our minds to solve problems, make plans, anticipate obstacles, evaluate how far we are from desired goals and choose between alternatives by judging their relative value. While “Doing” mode is extremely useful for helping us advance in our careers, be popular, lose weight, and a myriad of other life tasks, it falls short when it comes to managing emotions. Emotions cannot be reasoned away or “solved” and evaluating how far we are from feeling as happy as we’d like to feel only makes us feel worse. This type of thinking can actually exacerbate “sad” emotions by introducing a second layer in which we criticize or judge ourselves for being sad. “Doing” mode also doesn’t work when there is nothing we can do to change the situation. We may desperately want to be married, rich, loved, or successful, but we cannot force these outcomes to happen right away, even with the best of efforts. “Doing" mode can also lead to disheartening comparisons with people we feel are doing better than us and ruminations of why we are not where they are.
“Being” as an Alternative to “Doing”
Now, nobody is suggesting that we give up “Doing” mode altogether. If this were the case, we would never even find our keys to get out the front door. However, there is another way of being that many of us are not even aware of, and that is “Being” Mode. Unlike its counterpart, “Being” mode is not action-oriented, evaluative, or future-focused. It involves slowing down our minds and deliberately grounding ourselves by focusing on what we are experiencing right now. In "Being” mode, it is okay to just be us, whatever we happen to be experiencing; we do not try to change our thoughts or emotions into more positive ones or shut out aspects of our experience. Rather, we begin to develop a different relationship with our own senses, bodily states and emotions by deliberately focusing on what they are trying to tell us and allowing ourselves to be compassionately open to these messages.
“Being” mode involves accepting what is, because it will be there anyway. We begin to release energy, relax, and let go of the struggle to mould our reality into our preconceived ideas of what it should be. We begin to let go of judgments and regrets about the past and fear of the future. Rather than berating ourselves for not achieving the status in life we think we deserve or are entitled to, we allow ourselves to look fully and open-mindedly at where we are. Eventually we realize that this may not be so bad. We learn to extend love, compassion, and kindness to ourselves, and everything around us, rather than compartmentalizing reality into “good” and “bad,” or “winners” and “losers.” We are all infinitely more complex than what we earn or own; we are lovable and interesting, just by being human. This moment is just this moment and not where we are stuck forever. Ironically, by accepting the present, we open up space for internal and external movement and change…
…there's quite a bit more to this interesting article so if you want to read it in it's complete and original form then JUST CLICK HERE