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Sunday, August 24, 2008

On the Road to Inner Freedom

Many - if not most - clients complain that when we discuss methods by which they can find greater inner freedom and inner peace, it sounds like such hard work.

They tell me that it's all very well for me to talk about it, but that for them it is just going to take so long and be so hard.

In some ways they are right. None of this work is possible without some dedication and discipline. I often liken it to developing biceps and triceps in a weak or flaccid arm. In order to see some change, you need to be lifting weights or going to the gym on a regular basis for about three months. You have to be consistent, and you have to believe - during those early days and weeks - that even though it appears that nothing is changing, that something is indeed changing, and that you will soon see the desired results.

We talk about becoming aware of the self and its reactions, making conscious choices at each step of the way that are good for you on an energetic level (these may not be the easiest or most immediately pleasing choices, but they are the choices that give you the greatest sense of satisfaction with yourself), and choosing responsibility for the self in all senses of the word.

When we get to this point, some clients then protest, indicating that there is no proof that the end result will give them what they are seeking (inner freedom and peace in their lives and relationships), other than the fact that I (and untold others) vouch for it due to the effect it has had in their own lives.

Hence it is wonderful to listen to yet another person speaking the same language - this time couched in the terms of mindfulness meditation (I've posted about this in the past and mentioned Jon Kabat-Zinn).

In this instance it is Daniel Siegel, MD., author of The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being, whose podcast I listened to at the Brain Science Podcast, a wonderful site I link to on my own blog. In this podcast, he speaks about mindfulness meditation and the beneficial effects it has on your well-being ... and these benefits speak directly to the type of desired effects I referred to earlier in this post, that cause some clients such difficulty.

By paying attention to your intention over a period of 10 minutes every day, focusing on your breath, you begin to become aware of your awareness, and in this process certain sections of the brain are activated. Studies show that this process ... a state of mind that you work on with effort, becomes a trait, a long-term aspect of an individual's way of being that then happens without effort, and whose benefits cause you to:
  • develop more capacity to regulate your body (blood pressure, immune system improves, etc.)

  • attune to yourself and others in a deeper and meaningful ways (you develop compassion)

  • regulate your affective states better (you approach, rather than withdraw from things)

  • develop the ability to extinguish fear

  • develop response flexibility...the capacity to pause before you act; you think about your options and choose the most adaptive

  • have more insight into yourself

  • develop greater empathy

  • have more morality

  • you have access to your intuition, which is fundamentally your body's wisdom

All of these benefits - brought about as studies have proven - through mindfulness meditation, are the same benefits that can be achieved through other mechanisms, but that frequently take much longer, and require much more conscious effort.

How you do it is your business - even whether you do it, is your business - but these are some of the best roads to inner freedom and peace.

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