Urban Mindfulness--The Book!


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    On the Radio Tonight

    Submitted by Jonathan Kaplan, Ph.D.

    I'll be talking with Jane Pratt on Sirius Radio tonight some time between 6:30 and 8:30 pm! Please tune into the show in order to hear our conversation about mindfulness in the city!

    Psychotherapy and Buddhism

    Submitted by Jonathan Kaplan, Ph.D.

    I'll be co-teaching a 6-week series of classes with Shastri Ethan Nichtern at the Interdependence Project, starting in January.  Specifically, I'll be teaching about various schools of psychotherapy (e.g., psychoanalysis, CBT, ACT, positive psychology, etc.), and he'll be discussing how they compare with Buddhist teachings on health and well-being.  For more information, please follow this link:  East meets West.

    Being Present When Buying Presents

    By Jonathan Kaplan, Ph.D.

    It's that time of year again. I see signs of it everywhere, and the "big event" is almost here. You know what I'm talking about: Black Friday! Maybe you thought I meant Thanksgiving, and the wonderful opportunities to express appreciation to ourselves and others in celebration of the holiday. But no. Here in NYC, I see more signs and announcements about the upcoming shopping deals than anything about Thanksgiving. So, rather than talk about gratitude, I thought that I would talk about shopping. Mindfulness is about accepting what is, you know. However, if you would like to read about the power of gratitude, you can check out my post from last year.

    So, how can mindfulness and shopping go together? Isn't there something antithetical about them? If we're mindful, aren't we supposed to not want anything?

    In a strict sense, mindfulness isn't really about content at all. It's more about process. That is, how do we relate to what arises, whether it's a physical pain, an interaction with a friend, or an incredibly low price on a 52" flatscreen TV? Are we aware of our own reactions physically, mentally, and emotionally? By developing some insight into these things, we have more freedom. We're not beholden to our automatic ways of being in the world or stumbling through on automatic pilot. So, for example, we might not get swept up into buying something we don’t need, simply because it’s a good deal.

    In bringing mindfulness to shopping, we can consider this process before, during, and after we make our purchase.

    Before Shopping

    As you think about going shopping (whether on Black Friday or any other time), what reactions do you have? Do you look forward to the experience? Do you angrily predict crowds of pushy people? Do you condemn the consumerism seemingly rampant in our culture? Do you smile as you consider what kind of presents would make my friends and family happy? None of these reactions are better than any other (even though the last one sounds nicest, yeah?). Rather, they all represent a judgment on the experience of shopping, which you're not even doing yet. They're evaluations about some future event that has yet to occur. Whether they are correct or incorrect is not the point. Instead, it is a matter of noticing how your mind has gone into its time machine yet again, and you're dragging this anticipated future into the present moment. As you do so, what becomes our emotional reality? Is there something that is actually happening now that might be worthy of our attention? If so, simply note what judgments that arise about shopping and return your attention to whatever is present right now.

    TIP:  Although it's not a mindfulness exercise per se, I do think it's helpful to imagine what our intended recipients would enjoy as a gift. Take a few moments to consider what you know about them, and then see what ideas come to mind. It might not be anything too grandiose (Uncle Ron is such an avid spelunker!), but simply an expressed interest or personality quirk. Perhaps something in this vein would be appropriate? Generating some understanding of our recipients beforehand can help guide us in making more judicious purchases.

    While Shopping

    There's a lot to notice when we're shopping. If we're on-line, we can notice how we go about making shopping decisions. Do we already know what we want? Are we attracted by price? On-line reviews? The technical descriptions of the product? How we anticipate the recipients would react to such a gift?

    If we're in the store, there's a lot more stimuli. We can notice the people around us, the merchandise, and our own behavior as we consider various items. I write about this process in more detail in my latest book, but we often can touch and play with the items that we might buy.

    Regretfully, many of us are suffering economically during these harsh times. And, we can bring mindfulness to this painful reality, too. How do we relate to our restricted budgets? Do we feel guilty or ashamed over not being able to afford to spend as much we did in previous years? Are we stressed as we consider how to negotiate these lean times with the recipients of our gifts?


    After we've done our shopping, how do we relate to what we've bought? Are we excited? Embarrassed? Noncommittal? If you’ve scored a fabulous deal or found the ultimate gift for one of your loved ones, please take some time to savor this experience. Don’t just skip to the next thing on your list. Allow yourself to enjoy how you feel.

    If you missed out, you can become aware of how that feels, too. You might not want to do so, but we can’t just be mindful of the pleasant things sometimes. Of course, if you’re looking for some way to feel better, consider how you feel now about something that you “totally scored” last year. Most likely, there has been a newer, more stylish, or better functioning model released over the past year. Do you still react to having that original purchase with as much adoration as you did before? Do you find yourself wanting to get the new, improved version? What does this tell you about our desires, even when we get what we want?

    Of course, if you did get a really nice TV and you find yourself feeling somewhat empty about your purchase, I’d be happy to relieve you of any ill feelings. I’ll come by and pick it up tomorrow. < smile >

    Urban Mindfulness Sample Chapter

    Submitted by Jonathan Kaplan, Ph.D.

    Urban Mindfulness--the book!--is available now at bookstores everywhere.  My publisher, New Harbinger, has made a sample chapter available, too.  Just click here to see a blurb about the book and access the free chapter:  Urban Mindfulness Sample.

    Sounding Off

    By Emily Polak, Ph.D.

    Last weekend I attended a lecture on Inner Revolution from a Buddhist perspective. The speakers discussed that mindfulness is about how we relate to our experiences, and that our experiences are distinct from the stories we tell ourselves about them.

    The day included several periods of short meditation. At one point before we began a meditation, the teacher instructed us to turn on our cell phones. At first I thought it was a joke. We have all had the experience of being asked to turn off our cell phones. But who ever heard of being asked to turn on your mobile device. It turned out we would be doing a meditation on sound.

    As we sat, I anticipated the beeping or buzzing. But for some time it was quiet, save for the noises coming from outside the window. And then a jazz melody began to play. Though we had been given permission to let our phones ring—asked to, even—my immediate reaction that someone should make it stop.

    The sound of a phone ringing is intimately connected in my mind to the notion of interruption. To make the sound my focus rather than a distraction required a change of my mental framework. I tried to just hear the sound.

    As it continued to play, I found myself enjoying it. I thought, maybe I should get a jazzy ringtone. And when the sound stopped, I missed it. But only for a moment. Soon enough I was on to the next sound, the next thought, the next thought about the thought.

    Only a few phones actually went off during the 15 minutes or so that we sat. But I was struck by the strength of my tendency to be annoyed at the sound of a phone ringing in a public place.

    Next time you find yourself disturbed by someone’s phone ringing, see if you can notice the story you are telling yourself about it. See if you can isolate the event from the story and use it as opportunity to move beyond your habitual reactions. Perhaps you can find some compassion for the person who failed to turn off their ringer (we’ve all been there, right?) Or perhaps you could even get in touch with gratitude for the person whose phone unexpectedly jolted you back into the present moment.
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