Brain and Behavior

Is Mindfulness Meditation Safe?

There has been some growing concern recently about the safety of mindfulness meditation. Some claim that the practice can have severe side effects, such as panic, depression, and confusion. Are these concerns well founded? Maybe.

The main study cited by opponents of meditation is a British study of the effects of mindfulness meditation on a group of prison inmates. The inmates participated in a 90-minute weekly meditation class for 10 weeks. The study found that the inmates’ moods had improved and they had experienced a lower stress level, but remained just as aggressive as before the intervention.

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Personal

Learning to Accept Your Soul Under Construction


For most of his life, my father was a plumbing instructor in a trade school and was one of those people who can build a house from scratch. I envy that ability and regret that I didn’t learn some of his skills: plumbing, electrical, carpentry.

He was a master at hanging wallpaper and could plaster a ceiling silky smooth. I tried plastering a wall once, and it turned out looking like something you would see in a distorted mirror.

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Brain and Behavior

The Power of a Morning Ritual

One of the first things teachers tell new writers is to sit down in the same place at the same time every day to write. It’s the ritual, a way of preparing to write that primes our minds and our bodies to do it. The repetitive steps of sitting down in our writing spot awakens our minds to the process ahead.

Rituals -- from how we stir cream into coffee and blow out birthday candles to wedding vows and funeral prayers -- influence how we experience these moments of our lives.

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Anger

Contempt, Attachment and Meditation

My wife and I are older parents. We like to think we have much wisdom to pass on, but we have to be mindful of negative things we also can pass on.

Age brings healthy skepticism, and raising a daughter who reasonably questions authority will not be a bad thing. However, cynicism often accompanies skepticism, and the last thing we want is a cynical child. Childhood should be about wonder and possibility. Cynicism can quickly kill that. So we have to keep the negativity in check.

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Mindfulness

Using Karma to Recognize Difficulty in Our Relationships


With origins in ancient India, the term karma stems from the sanskrit word for “action, work or deed.” Karma not only applies to tangible actions like our words and deeds, it also applies to unseen energies like thoughts, intentions and emotions.

Under the spiritual law of karma, our intent and actions (cause) directly influence our future, and therefore our present (effect). For example, good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and future happiness; bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and future suffering.

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General

Focusing: A Path Toward Befriending Feelings

During the 1960’s, the psychologist and philosopher Eugene Gendlin asked a simple question: why do some people make progress in psychotherapy, while others don't -- and what is happening within those individuals who are benefiting from therapy?

After analyzing hundreds of taped therapy sessions, Gendlin and his team discovered that they could accurately predict after one or two sessions whether or not therapy would be successful. Surprisingly, positive outcomes were not linked to the orientation of the therapist, but rather to what these clients were doing within themselves.

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Mindfulness

5 Common Spiritual Ego Traps (and How to Avoid Them)


Though many of us may have a love-hate relationship with our ego, it’s necessary to remember that it serves an important spiritual role. In the positive, it gives us a distinct personal identity that helps us fulfill our life purpose, allowing us to share unique soul gifts with the world while working out our karma.

In the negative, the ego fools us into becoming overly identified with our bodies, thoughts and emotions. This attachment tricks us into believing we are fundamentally separate from God, one another and even our own souls, which leads to suffering. Over time, enough profound suffering eventually leads us back to God, completing the cycle.

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Bullying

How Spirituality Can Shape Our Self-Esteem


Some children aren't spiritually inclined, but many are. Is this because their tender, innocent awe for all things alive and imagined hasn't yet been trounced by trauma, teasing and/or adult logic? Is it because angels, deities and saints are magical beings on par with elves, fairies, imaginary friends and Queen Elsa of Arendelle? Is it because their memories of past lives still feel fresh? Is it because it is the nature of the young, for better or worse, simply to believe?

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Brain and Behavior

How to Avoid Being Hurt at Church

I consider myself to be highly spiritual. Just like many other people throughout the world, I go to church, read the Bible, and try very hard to demonstrate love wherever I go. Over the years, my spirituality has allowed me to develop a great respect for church leaders and the work that they do. Yet, I quickly realized that church leaders are human and sometimes they make mistakes. So, what happens when the people who you respect so much let you down?

Not all church leaders are manipulative or bad. In fact, I believe that most are amazing men and women who have a strong desire to help others. However, every individual, regardless of role, has imperfections. Sometimes these can result in miscommunication, hurt feelings, anger, and even a flareup of mental health symptoms among the most emotionally vulnerable people.

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Anger

The Fallacy of Unconditional Love: Why Selfless Loving Doesn’t Work & What Really Does

Wouldn't it be great to find someone who loves and accepts us as we are? Many times during psychotherapy sessions, my clients have uttered some version of, “I just want to be unconditionally loved! I want someone who can accept me with my flaws and foibles.”

I’m very sympathetic to our desire for a partner who is not bent on fixing and changing us. As psychologist
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