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EVERYDAY MEDITATION PODCAST: EPISODE #223

Listen to "Ep 223 - Pain, Mindset, and Meditation" on Spreaker.

What does it mean to remove pain?

You have pain. And then you don't. Et voila! Pain is removed.

So why is it *rarely* that simple? Let's dig deeper and look at what pain is before we talk about removing it "just like that".

what is pain?

Pain is an interpretation -by the brain- of a signal from the body (including the brain).

For example, when you cut your finger, the tissues that make up that part of your finger are now "damaged" - there's been an injury to the physical tissues. And this occurrence gets reported to the brain. The brain then decides what kind of emergency the signal indicates and how to respond. The factors that go into interpreting an event in the body as pain can be physical and emotional and situational, making it a complex thing to parse, but basically you feel pain often when the brain interprets the signal as worthy of attention.

So pain is an interpretation of an event that creates a signal.

To get rid of pain, you can take one or both of two approaches:

1. Get rid of the signal
2. Change the interpretation

Meditation essentially works on the second level, changing the interpretation. But sometimes it's not "conscious" so it may feel more like the first is what's happening. It helps to both trust the process and participate a little.

How does that work?

Trust the process by committing to doing the practice (as instructed to the best of your ability), even if you "suck" at it. Get a guide (like this podcast) to keep you on track!

Participate by knowing that pain comes in two threads (signal + interpretation), and work on changing the one that you can (the interpretation). Try to turn it around to see it from a different perspective. Never done that before? Try to find someone who has and ask for suggestions.

How does your mindset factor into this?

Here I'm going to encourage you to go in with a growth mindset (if you didn't catch my intro on mindsets last week, check out episode #216), because when you're in pain, you often have fear. Fear that the pain indicates something very bad or that it won't change. And yet the signal is there to get you to change... which is a type of growth.

Of course, with stress, your pain may be far removed from the moment when you sit down to meditate, and so it's possible you'll forget the motivation the pain inspired in the first place and give up before you've given meditation a chance (that sounds like something I would do ;P).

To avoid this, it helps to know that lasting change comes after a period of practice. Which means you have to stay with it and truly test it.

And even if the pain is present and loud, it may take some time to get the hang of the practice in order to shift your pain.

So try, try again and don't give up! Or pick a time period (like 3 months) and stick with it for at least that long.

Listen to the episode for more of my thoughts on removing pain through meditation and a growth mindset.
Listen to "Ep 223 - Pain, Mindset, and Meditation" on Spreaker.

Ready to practice a meditation?

Below is the week's "full practice" episode. Click here to listen to the "how to practice" instructions.

Listen to "Ep 220 - Full Bija Mantra Kriya Practice" on Spreaker.

I'd love to hear about your experience -- and help out with any questions you have.

Click on the bar below to get in touch!

Practicing with you,
esther
 

share your meditation experience + questions

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EVERYDAY MEDITATION PODCAST: EPISODE #216

Listen to "Ep 216 - Why change your brain at all?" on Spreaker.

How does meditation change our brain ... and thereby change our behavior?

I've been delving into this question over the past 8 "why meditate?" episodes on the podcast. I have had this question in one form or another for a while now, but had it clarified a bunch by reading the book Altered Traits. The authors, Daniel Goleman (of Emotional Intelligence fame) and Richard Davidson (a meditation researcher), ask a more targeted question: Are the effects of meditation temporary (a change in the person's state) or lasting (a change in the person’s traits)?

From available research findings, they identify four “main neural pathways” —or brain “circuits”— on which meditation can have an effect (sometimes temporary, sometimes lasting). If you’ve been following the podcast, you’ll recognize the four neural pathways as those for:

*** Stress
*** Attention
*** Compassion
*** Sense of self

The four areas can be identified distinctly and therefore studied separately, but in practice there is likely to be overlap.

Let’s put this into context you can use

If you’ve taken up meditating as an adult, most likely there was a motivation that got you to start.

*** Maybe there was something painful you wanted to remove?
*** Or a useful skill you wanted to build?
*** Or maybe you just did it to be a buddy, going along with a friend or a group.
*** Or perhaps, you were in search of answers about life, the universe, and everything.

Does your motivation for meditation fall into one (or more) of these areas? If so, you can find some answers about how likely your brain is to change with meditation from current research.

But let's pause there --

Why change at all?

In order to ask this question as it relates to the four pathways, I want to step outside of the meditation box for a bit and talk about mindset.

Psychologist Carol Dweck has coined two distinct types of mindset, about which she’s written in her book aptly called “Mindset”. The two types she outlines are “fixed" and “growth”.

** Quick caveat: I have not read the whole book yet, just enough to put a bee in my bonnet… today I just want to work from the knowledge that there are these two broad categories. For a detailed breakdown, you should also pick up her book and then form your own conclusions 😉

two mindset types

The fixed mindset looks like this: I come into the world with set skills and talents. My ability and knack for any particular know-how is fixed.

The growth mindset looks like pretty much the opposite: I come into the world without any set skills or abilities (except those that are just part of the species by now). I must learn everything else and because of this, I can learn anything I choose and grow my ability in any area I choose.

** Note: it doesn’t need to be all or nothing — you might have a growth mindset in one area and fixed in another.

Whether your particular mindset is more fixed or more growth(-y?), meditating to change your brain fits well within a growth paradigm. Key though is that the mindset that you bring to the practice may determine the outcome.

How mindset impacts your meditation "outcome"

Let’s say you’ve got a mostly fixed mindset, and you want meditation to reduce your stress. So you try meditation.

In one possible scenario, meditation is “easy” for you to do and it does reduces your stress. You think, hey, this is great, “I can meditate”.

Another possibility is that meditation ends up being “hard” for you to do, and so you quickly conclude, "I guess I can’t meditate”. You drop the meditation practice before seeing any “results”, telling others that meditation “just doesn’t work for you.”

Now let’s say you’ve got a mostly growth mindset, and again you want to take up meditation to reduce your stress.

Whether meditation is “easy” or “hard” for you on the first try (or the fiftieth), you’re likely to come back asking how you can improve and speed up your results (or simply increase the chances that there will be any). You are more likely to see any outcome as an invitation to advance or grow further, whether it’s to overcome challenge or keep going past an easy finish line.

Now, you may hear in my voice a preference for growth over fixed mindset. That’s because, as best I can tell, I’m a reformed fixed mindsetter. I don’t remember overcoming any great learning challenge in my youth because I never got close enough to failure to need to. But since then, I’ve begun embracing my ability to learn even where I don't know how yet. This opens the door for me to acquire new skills and knowledge that help me do what I love, even when it’s hard.

That said, I’m also curious about the potential “pros” and “cons” of each mindset type! I’m going to look at this from my personal and very biased perspective and nonetheless try to be fair.

Listen to the episode for more of my thoughts on how growth and fixed can inspire or discourage…

Listen to "Ep 216 - Why change your brain at all?" on Spreaker.

Want to practice a meditation?

Below is the week's "full practice" episode. Click here to listen to the "how to practice" instructions.

Listen to "Ep 213 - Full Sat Yam Kriya Practice" on Spreaker.

I'd love to hear about your experience -- and help out with any questions you have.

Click on the bar below to get in touch!

Practicing with you,
esther
 

share your meditation experience + questions

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