Urban Mindfulness--The Book!


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    Meditate NYC Week

    On Sunday, November 9th, there will be a series of meditation workshops offered on the Upper West Side from 2 - 7 p.m. During the following week, various mediation centers will be hosting “open houses” for interested New Yorkers. Check out the Meditate NYC website for details:

    Meditate NYC


    By Rob Handelman, Ph.D.

    Meditation teachers use the analogy of the mountain to describe the experience of solidity and groundedness we strive for in meditation. To help with this, we go on retreats removed from civilization to reduce distractions. Well, in the city, there aren’t many mountains to remind us of our sturdiness. The sheer speed and rhythm, all of the moving things, the number of people, are enough to make us feel like less like a mountain and more like a tumbleweed.

    Often the best we can do when stressed or overwhelmed is to retreat to the relative comfort of home, or the office, or even the restroom. When I’m feeling particularly tumbleweedy and tossed around by my active brain, often the best I can do is remember to pay attention to my body, listen to it, not fight the experience. The one thing that we always have is the power of attention and awareness, at all times in the present moment. Here are some steps to solidity when you’re on the go in the city:

    • While standing on line or waiting for the walk signal, take a moment or two to stand still on the sidewalk.

    • Turn your attention inward.

    • Take slow, deep breaths (not if you’re behind a bus of course).

    • Pay attention to the bottoms of your feet as they are supported by ground.

    • Notice the sounds, sights, and smells of the lively city around you.

    • Listen to your mind, perhaps feeling embarrassed that you are standing still while no one else is.

    • Congratulations! You have brought the mountain to the meditator.


    How much is your family worth?

    By Jonathan Kaplan, Ph.D.

    Two days ago, the actress and singer Jennifer Hudson offered a $100,000 reward for the safe return of her 7-year-old nephew who was abducted. Tragically, the young boy was discovered dead soon afterwards.

    In offering this reward, Ms. Hudson clearly expressed a core value of loving her family more than money. For most of us who worry about losing money, savings, and investments during the current financial crisis, we have still have our family. It’s time to notice mindfully who--not what--we have and how much we treasure them. After all, how much is your family worth?

    Financial crisis & mindfulness: 4 tips for dealing with the recession

    By Jonathan Kaplan, Ph.D.

    Here in the city, anxiety about the financial crisis is palpable and omnipresent. Thousands of people, especially within the financial services industry, have been losing their jobs. Real estate construction and development have slowed or ceased, while home sales plummet. Retail businesses and restaurants have been doing poorly too as many of us cope with a decrease in income by reducing our spending.

    How can mindfulness help?

    Mindfulness can help by reducing our suffering in a very painful situation. The financial crisis has a negative effect on our home finances, savings, and fulfillment of some life dreams (at least temporarily). This is our current reality--and it hurts. Unfortunately, we often make this bad situation worse as we become mired in regret, fantasy, and worry. “If only I sold my stocks 6 months ago...” or “I’m never gonna get another job” are common reactions to the crisis. However, emotionally such thoughts make us feel worse. So here are a few mindfulness pointers:

    • Notice where your mind goes. Are you stuck in regret or blaming others? Are you catastrophizing about the future?

    • Find ways to reconnect with positive aspects in your life, like your health, family, or faith. Often, we dismiss expressing such appreciations by adding “Yes, but...” The “but” takes away any joy or satisfaction from things that are going well. Real life is good and bad, not good but bad.

    • Re-evaluate and do constructive planning and problem-solving. Mindfulness can help us see what is really happening and deal with it appropriately. Not being able to pay the bills might be a reality for you. So, minus the worry, anxiety, and recrimination, what are your options? How can you increase the money coming in and reduce the money going out?

    • Finally, notice your mindset now vs. 6 months ago. Chances are, you saw your life as being deficient at that time, too. You wanted more money, an iPhone, or whatever. You told yourself, “If only I had [X], I would be happy.” Now, we are confronted with reality of having less than we did previously; our mindset matches actually matches our circumstances. In fact, we might even find ourselves longing for how good we had it before, at least financially. At the time though, we weren’t satisfied with it. This irony suggests that we need to recognize the problem in dwelling on thoughts that we’re deficient or need something that we do not have. Not until we recognize and accept our current circumstances can we be free to change it.


    "I hate the rain!"

    By Jonathan Kaplan, Ph.D.

    Walking through Park Slope recently, I overheard a woman muttering to herself about how much she hated the rain.  Bent over and walking quickly, she was cursing under her breath as she rushed off with her umbrella.  Normally, this would not be out-of-the-ordinary.  What made it strange, though, was that fact that it was not even raining!

    The sky looked dark and the forecast called for rain.  However, in that moment (and indeed all morning long), there was no rain.  This woman was making herself feel miserable by ruminating over something that was not happening.  Presumably, she expected to be unhappy later when it rained, so she had started to make herself feel bad now.  Why?  Is there any inherent advantage to getting a jump-start on feeling irritated, annoyed, and inconvenienced?

    This is a trap that catches all of us periodically.  We expect to feel bad about something, so we start feeling worried, angry, or sad about it now.  If it doesn't happen, then we usually find something else to make us feel disappointed, stressed, or anxious.  If it does happen, then we think, "Aha!  I knew it!"  What does this get us?   Why not take a moment to recognize what's actually happening, rather than forecasting misery?

    As for the woman I ran into, I hope that she found a moment of peace or--perhaps more profoundly--recognized that there are many reasons to feel grateful for rain.  As for the weather, it never rained.