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Tools Alone Won’t Fix Your Problems

Most people don’t have the exact body they want.  But I bet there is a “state of the art” gym right down the road from many of us.

If someone wants to lose weight, improve your health, or just sport an awesome bod – all the tools they need are inside those doors.  So why aren’t we using them?  And if you do use them, did you stop before you got what you really wanted?

Many of us have a strong desire to change, to become ‘the best version of ourselves.’ But doesn’t it seem that no matter how many resolutions or promises you make, you often wind up back where you started – sometimes worse off than when you started?

And then what? You go looking for better tools, for better therapists, for better drugs, right?  But deep down you know that what’s really holding you back is… you.

Sometimes we just can’t get out of our own way. Would you like to know why?

We’re Not Asking The Right Question

Let’s take a step back and consider why the “build a better mousetrap” solution hasn’t worked so far.

We often ask ourselves questions like:

  • What diet should I be on?
  • What workout should I do?
  • Why isn’t this stuff working?

Let me point out that none of those questions are going to get you the result you’re looking for.  Those questions, without the “core question” being answered, are just more distractions that prevent change.

The real question is: Am I ready to change?

There’s a voice in the back of your head that answers that question for you.  And if it says “no,” then you’ve already lost.  The greatest, most advanced, most expensive tools in the world won’t do a thing for you.

You’re totally wasting your time and money if the answer is no.  In fact, you might even be making the problem worse by proving to yourself that change isn’t possible.

Decide to Change

People who accomplish massive things in life see success.  They frame the world in a way such that it serves them – they literally choose to see it in the way that serves them best.  And you know what happens? The world actually does serve them.

What if there was a way to achieve a fundamental shift in the way you see the world?  What if that meant not just increased productivity, but a deep and lasting fulfillment in your life?

Would you be ready to let it happen? (Ask yourself right now, and see what you say.)

When you can say yes to this question – your life is going to get better.  Things may get more challenging too, but that’s only because you’ll actually be doing the things you want to be doing, and removing the limiting beliefs and actions that have become a part of your life.

Massive change requires a kind of death. But that death will allow you to become the person you truly want to be – the kind of person who sees opportunities as chances to win rather than chances to be humiliated – the kind of person who feels happy and successful even when their life isn’t perfect – the kind of person who feels worthy of love.

Are you ready for a little death to your old way of thinking and being in the world?

If today is the day, I recommend you start with my free Back to Breath Challenge – you have to get comfortable being with and looking honestly at yourself before you’re willing to accept change on an experiential level.

And as always, when you’re ready, I’m here to help. Let me know what that voice in the back of your head is saying about this article down in the comments.

Dive In or Drop It

This talk is inspired by the question: In meditation, do we dive into frustration when it arises or do we drop it? I use this question to do an overview of meditation, and then answer at the end.

Meditation is really about state management. We are trying to foster a better state of mind. To do that, we try to become aware of all that we are. What we are ends up being thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. The investigation of these aspects of our self ends up being our spiritual experience. Many of us begin to meditate to deal with Busy Mind. To quell Busy Mind we try to separate thoughts from emotions and physical experience. That is the practice of meditation.

To become aware of all these aspects of our self we use mindfulness, which is placing the mind on an anchor and leaving it. We fail repeatedly so that we can foster awareness. Where is our mind? What is it doing? As we try to leave it somewhere, it wanders. As we become more aware of that wandering, we wake up more and more. This practice allows our mind the ability to still.

So during this training, and in life, do I dive into frustration, or drop it? What is the real practice here? Well, we actually do both. We dive into the feeling of frustration, the emotion and physical sensation, but we drop the thought of frustration. This allows us to become less attached to our thoughts. That lack of attachment allows us to foster stillness and ultimately gives us more control of our minds. For beginning meditators, the most immediate benefit is combating Busy Mind. As you meditate more and more, the benefits go all the way down.

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/DiveInorDropIt.mp3]

Turning Subject Into Object

Turning subject into object is both a concept and a practice. In this talk I discuss the difference between inner and outer experience and how that relates to subjective and objective experience. We need to define perspective – subjective experience is what I identify as “me”. Objects exist within my awareness, but are not “me”.

An interesting point to note here is that even things I identify as me can be objectified. I have a foot, but I am not my foot. My foot is still me on some level, but I am able to objectify it. That ability to objectify internal experience is important.

If we find we are angry, that is our subjective experience. Turning subject into object would be backing up from that anger with a question: What am I right now? That shines the light on our experience and objectifies the anger. We can’t see the subject, we are the subject. But we can see things once we objectify them.

You may say, but Rob, I see myself get mad all the time. That’s true on two levels: One level is that you flip between subject and object to some degree all the time, and the other is that you see it now, when we’re objectifying it together. But learning to do this as a practice can lead to profound change in your life.

Who is the self that backs up from the subject to objectify it? That is the age old question. Another question to ask is which of these perspectives is self? That really depends on whose talking. Self can mean egoic separate sense; or it can mean, in some Indian traditions as an example, the cosmic oneness. We can get lost in words very quickly here. But the aware self in the background is what is often termed either just “awareness” or “authentic self”. Ego would normally be considered the smaller self.

The practice of mindfulness is a subjective experience, practice of awareness is an objectified experience. We need to do both. When you are angry, you are smaller. When you are aware you are angry (have objectified the anger, but not dissociated from it) you are larger. You are the anger and potentially the solution.

So how do we make the subject the object? We use introspection, questions, and cultivate awareness. The desire to see what you are brings this objectivity to the situation. We see as objects what we are. This is the practice of meditation. What is arising for me in this moment? We can make a practice of it, or we can do it when we realize we are unhappy.

Just the simple action of making the subject the object allows us space for change.

Referenced: Integral Theory

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/TurningSubjectIntoObject.mp3]

Guided Meditation – Sort Of

Meditation is the realization of this moment. The “practice of meditation” is the sitting down to work on this before it becomes fully natural to live that way. To abstract it further, we can use anchors such as counting, visualization, and pointed awareness to help bring our attention to our breath.

I’d like you to stay as present as possible during this talk, but I will be talking much more than a normal guided meditation, hence the “sort of” in the title. I want to show you different ways to meditate and use ideas to help find stillness. Please look for other guided meditations as there are many good ones out there.

Set the intention of spending this time to work with your mind and thoughts. Be committed during your practice time to coming back to your experience, back to your breath no matter what thoughts arise.

Stillness is the quality of listening. Notice when we start adding thought, or content, and see how that is not listening. When we notice this, we come back to our breath and pay attention, or “listen” to the moment. That is the quality of meditation.

Work with counting. We learn to use anchors until stillness is loud enough within us. So we place our thinking on something we can see, and judge (counting). Count on the in breath for a while, then the out breath for a while, then both. This is also a good way to time yourself if you don’t have a clock. You can commit to a certain number of breaths.

Be sure to notice and work with the energy underneath the breath. We mentioned that everything is in the breath, all sounds, etc. The breath is really just a link to what is. Open to the energy underneath the breath.

Work with closed eyes, and finding a sensation, then watch opening our eyes and trying to hold that sensation. Did it go away? The content changed, can we hold onto that stillness, that sensation?

A more mature practice is just breath, then thinking, then breath. We come back again and again as we think. We start by learning the landscape of thought.

Another anchor is shifting attention to something small, like just the opening of the mouth and nose while breathing. Later we open it to the bigger full breath from mouth to stomach and back out. Eventually we can start to move the energy all around the body. We’ll discuss that more in another talk.

I mentioned that there are things that help practicing meditation. Committing to a certain area, and using a seat and timer can be a help. One place online to buy meditation gear is Amida: http://www.ami-da.com.

Lastly, we don’t need to spend a lot of time meditating. Just a few minutes is useful to bring us back to center. Sitting in the morning and evening for three to five minutes can have a profound affect on your life. I call it bookending your day with meditation.

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/GuidedMeditationSortOf.mp3]

Using Anchors

What are anchors? The dictionary defines an anchor as something that is the source of security or stability. I’m discussing using things that occur in the world as reminders to bring your attention back to the moment, or back to awareness.

Examples of anchors are things like:
Going through doorways.
When we walk somewhere.
When we listen to people.

Why use anchors? It is a way to bring stillness into the everyday experience. Many people learn to meditate on a seat, but have difficulty bringing that peace into the world they live in. Using anchors is the beginning of that practice.

Stillness is available anytime. Use anchors to learn that truth.

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/UsingAnchors.mp3]

To Think or Not to Think

When is it okay to think?

When something makes you angry, there are two healthy ways to deal with it. You can become still, or you can investigate the situation using your mind. So at what point should you use your mind or thoughts to work with a situation? You should use your mind when you are aware you are using your mind.

What I am trying to convey is that thought is okay, it just needs to be conscious thought. So what is conscious thought? Thought that sweeps us away into a busy mind is an example of unconscious thought. Working out a problem, finding patterns, working with logic, setting appropriate boundaries on certain levels, using judgment to discern things are all good uses of the mind, as long as we are aware we are doing it.

Challenges will not stop. Neither will “good” and “bad” emotions, feelings, situations, etc. When we change, the world still comes, but we can deal with the world differently. By being detached from the ego, we can free ourselves of being upset that we are sad. So sadness doesn’t stop. Instead, we become okay with sadness.

Depending on how deeply in the world I’m going to live, the more things tend to define me. And hence, the more I need to protect. Be aware of what you are protecting. Be aware of what you are attached to.

Two sides of being alive can be described as thinking/experiencing, or thinking/being, or mind/body. Philosophers have discussed mind and body for ages. The goal is to have mind and body in the same place (here) at the same time (now). We could call the act of accomplishing that a higher state of being.

We don’t want to avoid things through meditation. The act of dropping thought is used to learn about thinking, and to show that thinking isn’t all there is. It is not used to abandon thought entirely. Krishnamurti’s book “Think On These Things” was mentioned to point that out. It was also mentioned that Krishnamurti often suggests “looking at things deeply” which implies using thought.

To sum up, it is okay to think when you are aware you are thinking. Thinking is a tool, and we need to learn to use it as such.

Referenced: Krishnamurti

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/ToThinkorNottoThink.mp3]

Mindfulness Awareness Disconnect

Beginning to define awareness, mindfulness and disconnected states of being.

The desire to become aware is really the first fundamental shift (there may be more shifts later, but this is the first profound one). So what is awareness? How do we use mindfulness within awareness? And what is disconnect?

An example from Anthony Robbins: We don’t want money, we want to be happy, we want the feeling money gives us. You are disconnected when details like this aren’t clear. We need to be aware when we are not happy. More importantly, we need to become aware of what will make us happy. Mindful meditation is one way to develop these skills.

Busy mind is an example of being disconnected. Getting caught in a belief system of the news, or chasing money at the expense of peace or happiness is being disconnected.

Mindfulness is one pointed. It is being able to leave your mind on something and keep it there. So when we meditate, we are making an effort to develop mindfulness of our breath. But mindfulness is not all there is, awareness is the awakened state that we also want to cultivate.

Awareness is the watcher in the back, without judgment We watch ourselves and allow it all to be. So it is not only the quality of watching, it is the quality of forgiveness. It is the quality of understanding. This is the beginning of wisdom. We start to watch our thoughts and emotions and we stop judging them. This allows us to open to a freedom of being. We don’t have to be as critical as we are. Our inner dialog has gotten out of control.

Why is it unwise to get attached? As everything is made of change, when we try to hold on to things, events, feelings, etc. we will constantly be disappointed.

Referenced: Tony Robbins

Busy Mind Defined

Audio track mixed to describe a busy mind.

First step of dealing with a busy mind is to become aware that it is occurring to you.

Next step is to bring your attention back to your breath.

There are many things that make up a busy mind. Emotions, anxieties, fears, joys, etc. You can go down each path to work with your mind, but it’s most important to learn to drop your thoughts. Drop all busyness, even though it may feel like you need to work on the content, it is ok to drop thoughts.

Do we want to spend all our time “busy,” or would we rather find peace and sit in that? We need to learn to be fulfilled.

Busy mind leads us to do things to “ease our pain” in excess (such as watch TV, drink, smoke, etc.). It’s important that we learn the middle path between fixing our problems externally with “aspirin” and sitting with discomfort. We need to learn when to stop chasing our problems.

Who do we really want to be? Would we rather free our minds and grow, learn, and express? Or do we want to let our minds run on and on endlessly?

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/BusyMindDefined.mp3]

Be Where You Are

A discussion that begins to talk about ways and times to bring presence into the world. If you practice meditation, these methods will be a good extension of that practice. If you don’t meditate, this will be a good introduction to what meditation is and can be used for.

Mentioned Thich Nat Han and his discussion of doing the dishes mindfully rather than with a busy mind. Also discussed eating mindfully.

Untrained minds will have difficulty being where they are.

Anchors are things that remind us to bring our attention back to the present moment. They remind us to wake up. Anchors discussed in this talk include: Waiting in traffic, waiting in line, eating, doing the dishes, vacuuming, etc.

Gave a brief introduction and instructions on how to do walking meditation.

Lastly, mentioned that if we don’t learn how to be contented where we are, we will never learn to be contented at all.

Referenced: Thich Nhat Hanh

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/BeWhereYouAre.mp3]

Discussion on Beliefs

A discussion of the importance in understanding what beliefs are and how they affect us. Beliefs are the filter we see our world through. We need to begin understanding their use.

Three ways to perceive the world: Truth, opinion, and belief. Truth is what is. Opinion is when we make a judgment of a truth and take a separate stance on the truth. Beliefs are when we erroneously treat opinions as truths.

There are many facets to life. There are levels of intention and perspective. Opinions can be used effectively to enhance performance on some of these levels. Referenced Ken Wilber’s book No Boundary about boundaries of self – body, ego, persona.

Beliefs are the most powerful ideas there are. Every war has been fought because of beliefs.

How do we watch beliefs? One way is with meditation. Beginning that is to watch when we get upset. That tells us that we are bumping into a belief we have.

Referenced: Ken Wilber