Book review: Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life by Steven C. Hayes

This book encourages you to detach from the causes of suffering, embrace your psychological pain, identify your values, and take action towards those values. It is all based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which focuses on mindfulness techniques, acceptance, and value-centric living. The author pretty much outlines the path out of suffering and towards full engagement of life.

When people believe their negative thoughts and incorporate them into their personal identity, their perspective becomes severely limited, and suffering becomes twofold. There is pain of the presence like anxiety and depression. When focusing on such negative states, a secondary type of agitation emerges: the pain of absence, which refers to the inability to move forward in life and the opportunities missed as a result.

Mindfulness techniques are very effective in catching negative thoughts before they become an ingrained part of one’s identity or self-concept. A daily practice of meditation and other contemplative practices can create a healthy distance between negative thoughts and one’s sense of self as external to those thoughts. Practicing acceptance, or the willingness to experience the situation and self exactly as they are in the present moment is the next step. The third step is to identify values, which are not life goals or specific outcomes but rather directions in life that people make the conscious decision to move toward. Once values are identified, incorporating practices of mindfulness and acceptance paves the way to values-driven living.

Key insights of this book are:

  1. There are two faces of human suffering: present pain, which refers to an undesirable condition, and the pain of absence which results from not living a full life.
  2. Human beings think relationally, creating temporal, causal, and comparative links between various subjects.
  3. Running away from pain only makes it more palpable.
  4. Avoidance can be counteracted by the belief that it’s possible to respond in a new way to old problems.
  5. Acceptance means letting go of trying to control thoughts and feelings.
  6. Creating distance between the self and negative thoughts is the first step in reducing emotional pain.
  7. Identifying with the consciousness that holds pain is preferable to identifying with the pain itself.
  8. Mindfulness practices heighten the ability to be flexible and access a wide range of reactions.
  9. Pain offers meaningful guidance to identify values.

I really enjoyed this methodically and thoughtfully written book which made the philosophical underpinnings of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) accessible. I strongly suggest reading it in its entirety. Get it here.

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, novel in verse, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

Book review: Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

I first read this book ten years ago for a Spirituality & Resilience class. It’s pretty straightforward in that whatever has happened to you, it has already happened. Now how are you going to handle it? Don’t lose touch with yourself and fall into a robot-like way of seeing and thinking and doing where you break contact with your deepest self because if not careful, those moments can stretch out and last a lifetime. Don’t be preoccupied with the past, with what has already happened, or with a future that hasn’t arrived yet because you may fall quite unawares into assuming is the truth about what is out there in the world and in here in our minds because much of the time, it just isn’t so.

The author goes on to say that we may pay a high price for this mistaken and unexamined assumption by willfully ignoring the richness of our present moments. The fallout accumulates silently, coloring our lives without our knowing it or being able to do something about it. Instead, we lock ourselves into a personal fiction that is enshrouded in thoughts, fantasies, and impulses mostly about the past and the future that veil our direction and the very ground we stand on. This book tells you how to wake up from such dreams and the nightmares they turn into. Go from ignorance—our mindlessness, to being in touch with the not knowing which is mindfulness, by using meditation, and wakefulness which is present moment awareness.

It is important to note that meditation is not some cryptic activity, and does not involve becoming a zombie, cultist, devotee, or mystic. It is simply about being yourself, coming to realize that you are on a path that is your life, see that this path has direction that is always unfolding moment by moment and that what happens in this moment influences what happens next.

Reading this book in its entirety helps get out of the fog-enshrouded, slippery slope that we get into and that we may follow right into our grave or that fog-dispelling clarity at the moment before death where we realize that all the thought we placed on past and future was based on ignorance and fear. Instead shed those life-limiting ideas that aren’t the truth or the way our life has to be at all. When I first read this book, it seemed too straightforward in saying that “it is what it is.” But considering I had to lead a discussion on it the following day, I reread it and really got into it and got the message. It was one of the books that started me on this journey of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, as well as spirituality and resilience seeking. Get it here.

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

Book review for From Stress to Stillness: Tools for Inner Peace by Gina Lake

This self-help book starts out with how stress affects the body via the stress channel and goes into how to and not create stress which was very interesting. “Stress results from the negative stories (negative thoughts in our body that cause tension and a sense of contraction) that our egoic mind tell us about ourselves, life, others, the past, the present, or the future.” We think we need such thoughts when they interfere with handling life and making it less enjoyable. So how do we let go of mental baggage? Awareness and turning down the volume on the egoic mind’s radio station of relentless mind messages. Or at least change it to the stillness channel which expand us rather than contracts us. The more we tune into stillness the easier it becomes and the less compelling the egoic chatter is.

The different types of stressful thoughts are explained nicely: “I” thoughts, stories, judgments, “shoulds”, self-criticism, self-doubt, fears, worries, ideas of perfection, and thoughts about the past. That section is followed nicely by their antidotes, or ways to drop the mental baggage like accepting people for the way they are and not imposing our desires and expectations on them. Or when it’s not reminiscing it’s reliving and drudging up sour circumstances. Our memories don’t even accurately reflect what happened in the past.

Noticing, accepting, investigating, reframing, and letting go of stressful thoughts and feelings is the way to heal the scab of unresolved memories or negative thoughts. And reframing is a way to let go of ideas of perfection. The author describes in detail how to do this next. Being present, being in the body and senses, being willing to not know, being grateful, accepting life, breathing practices, meditation, and bridges to presence are ways to switch the egoic mind’s radio channel to stillness. This book is filled with dialogue to change from negative to positive as well as instruction on how to meditate.

Changing our lifestyle by making time for stillness, slowing down, realizing less is more, reassessing our relationship to the media, and making time for our heart’s desires was an interesting chapter. I particularly enjoyed the thought about reassessing our relationship to the media and instead slowing down and making time for what will really calm us, which is things like gratitude, compassion, meditation, and breathing practices.

Keys to changing our lifestyle:

  • Make peace and less stress a priority
  • Meditate daily
  • Do things more slowly and with more presence
  • Minimize multitasking
  • Unplug and walk in nature, listen to music, cook, play, or garden
  • Remove ourselves from negative situations and people
  • Eliminate soul-stripping or unnecessary activities
  • Be selective about television and the media
  • Consume fewer material goods

So realize the ego is often referred to by the term “false self” for a reason because it’s phony or false. Choose to eliminate that stress channel and tune into stillness by being present in the moment by letting go of that stressful thought the moment we recognize it. Stop. Take a deep breath. Switch the channel. Whatever our attention is focused on gains power. This book also notes Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D., author of The Biology of Belief which is a good choice to read. Keep in mind to slow down, be present, and follow our joy. Get the entire book here.

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

Using Mindfulness to Remedy Anxiety and also Depression

Feeling trapped in your own mind can be a very scary, frustrating, and unpleasant feeling, and something that many people with anxiety experience. I’m someone who battles chronic and often acute anxiety and have done so for nearly 20 years, and during that time I’ve often been a prisoner of my own thoughts. It’s a lonely place that triggers more anxiety.

Photo by David Garrison on Pexels.com
8 Symptoms of Being Trapped in Your Own Thoughts
1. Indecisiveness

2. Procrastination

3. Overthinking Everything

4. Being Emotionally Reactive

5. Sleep Problems

6. Poor Concentration

7. Tension and Sore Muscles

8. Not Making Time for Relaxation  

How to Stop Feeling Trapped?
Photo by Valeria Ushakova on Pexels.com
1. Practice being mindful. Sit. Only focus on the breath.  

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an established program shown to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Mindfulness is the most effective technique that helped me to finally get out of my head, and I cannot recommend it enough. Practicing mindfulness trained my mind to focus on the present moment, which is the only moment where I was able to experience fewer thoughts, no thoughts, and calmness.

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. – Buddha

If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath. – Amit Ray, mindfulness leader and author of several popular books on mindfulness

Photo by Jacob Colvin on Pexels.com
2. Get fresh air to clear your mind by immersing yourself in nature
Stanford researchers find mental health prescription: Nature

In a previous study, time in nature was found to have a positive effect on mood and aspects of cognitive function, including working memory, as well as a dampening effect on anxiety. Study finds that walking in nature yields measurable mental benefits and may reduce risk of depression.—Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

3. Release your thoughts by journaling or talk therapy
Photo by Polina Kovaleva on Pexels.com

Keeping a journal helps you create order when your world feels like it’s in chaos. You get to know yourself by revealing your most private fears, thoughts, and feelings. Look at your writing time as personal relaxation time. It’s a time when you can de-stress and wind down. Write in a place that’s relaxing and soothing.—University of Rochester Medical Center

Do I believe it is acceptable to do something wrong if no one will ever find out?

The answer is a resounding no. Why? Karma. I’ve learned from personal experiences, i.e., a horrendously difficult divorce, that negative actions come back to haunt you. Some may say that I’m superstitious, but my untruths or bad behaviors have always come with consequences.

Others might point to a mindset that expects karmic retribution, so I set myself up to obstacles blocking my way; hence, I’m the cause of my own failures. May be so; but I’ve learned that I don’t want to find out. Life is easier with a good conscience.

And finally, one could point to my schizophrenia diagnosis as bad karma; but I actually think that it has made my life better as I see things differently than I once did and live most days mindfully and as if they were my last. 

Outsider in My Own Culture

whereveryougothereyouareWherever I go in public, it seems like I’m an outsider. First of all, I’m part Native American; therefore, I’ve never been considered completely “white”. Secondly, due to my lighter appearance, I’ve never been thought of as American Indian. Then there is where I live–Eden Prairie; it is a special place where I also don’t feel as if I belong. Neighboring suburbs poke fun at Eden Prairie for being too affluent, arrogant and ignorant. And, I don’t know if it is due to my mental illness; but I find myself out of place wherever I go in public, especially so in my own community which is why I take so many classes in adjacent towns like Chanhassen, Bloomington, or Minneapolis.

It makes me think of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Wherever You Go, There You Are. I’m comfortable in my own skin, just not when I’m around other people where I have to communicate my intentions or opinions. I’m at peace on my own, and very mindful, perhaps too mindful. I’m not looking for a quick fix, as I don’t believe such exist. I’m the type of person who can get too lost in a good book or basking in the moment. Looking inwards can become surreal. So how can I feel like an insider as opposed to an outsider without losing touch with reality? I guess I have to turn back to another book that I frequent, Richard Carlson’s Shortcut through Therapy, which really isn’t a quick fix as the title implies.  His simple yet profound ten steps keep me from those radical “thought tornadoes” (thinking traps) as Kathy Emerson-Marshall of the National Resiliency Resource Center refers to them. My favorites of Richard Carlson’s steps are: “know your own mood, letting go of negative mind-states, count your blessings, and now is the time to live”. Doing all of his ten things, especially counting my blessings such as the connectedness of my immediate family and support structure is what gets me from one day to the next.

Group Meditation

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Prior to needing meditation, I never realized how many opportunities exist if you only look for them. From community college continuing education, to college walk-in silent group sessions, to the mental health non-profit opportunity I took part in today. I’ve found that meditation is necessary with my schizophrenia because it helps to control the restlessness and tremors when I relax and intentionally forces the stress out of mind and body. For me, not only is medication necessary but I don’t know where I’d be without silent group work.

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