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Multitasking

I used to be a chronic multi-tasker.

“Used to be” is probably being a little too generous.

I still find myself, throughout the day, attempting or at least thinking about more than one thing at a time. Sometimes, I begin to feel it both mentally and physically – a sense of unsettledness, like I am scattered.

At these moments, I can (now) take a breath, slow down, and remind myself to focus on the one thing – the one thing that I need to do right then.

Dan Harris of 10% Happier says Multitasking is code for doing several things poorly. When I remember to focus all of my effort on the one thing I am doing right then, I am more efficient, and more productive.

But, mostly importantly, I am more at peace.

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Matt Lauer and Sex Addiction

The news that Matt Lauer had been terminated from NBC News, while shocking to many, did not come as a surprise to some. I, for one, was shocked. I’ve watched The Today Show  for many years and have always enjoyed Lauer’s journalism. I think Lauer, more than the others, reveals an ugly truth about sex addiction, or compulsive sexual behavior (whatever you choose to call it) – Many men struggle with it, even the seemingly least likely. 

And that’s what led me to share the video below on my YouTube Channel. I don’t know, but I am guessing that those who knew me would have never guessed that I struggled with compulsive sexual behavior. I was, to use the controversial phrase, a “sex addict”.

Was.

After struggling for a long time, and nearly loosing everything, I got help. I found someone who had been through it and found a way out of the endless, heartless, cycle. And now, I’ve become a certified coach so I can help others do that same.

We are in the midst of a global opportunity for men to reflect on their behavior, admit their failures, and get help. It’s not too late. It’s never too late.

Video Book Review: Secular Buddhism

Many of you know that in addition to being a life and recovery coach, I am also an adjunct professor. Having been part of academia for a few years, I wrote some things that you can find on Amazon and various academic journals. In fact, my academic work continues to be cited in current work in the field of religious studies.

When I was actively engaged in academic research, I did lots of book reviews, many of which were published in scholarly journals. Although that I am no longer engaged in that kind of work, I still read – a lot – and I thought I should share what I am reading and what I like with my followers.

So today, I launched my video book review series on my YouTube Channel with a short note about my favorite book on Buddhist philosophy and practice, Secular Buddhism: Eastern Thought for Western Minds by my frind and mentor Noah Rasheta. I am honored to work with Noah as a member of the board of directors for the Foundation for Mindful Living, the non-profit organziation that makes possible the podcast he hosts, which is also called Secular Buddhism.

Watch the video review and if you want, get your copy of Noah’s book on Amazon.com.

Mindfulness and Addiction

How Mindfulness can help those who struggle with addiction and their loved ones. This video was aimed specifically at sex and porn addiction, but I think the principles are helpful for anyone addiction or compulsive behavior.

Pay Attention

How many times have you heard that in your life?

“Pay attention!”

The problem is, most of us where never taught HOW to pay attention. Most teacheres and partents – most people in general – assume that paying attention is a natural skill that we all have the ability to just ‘do’ on command.

And we all do have the ability to increase our attention. But we have to work at it. It’s not something that comes naturally to most.

In his book, Buddhism Without Beliefs, Stephen Batchelor writes:

I open the refrigerator to discover that I have no milk and so decide to go down to the store to get some. I shut the door behind me, turn left into the street, follow the sidewalk for two blocks, turn left and left again, enter the store, snatch a carton of milk from the shelf, pay for it at the checkout, leave the store, turn right and right again, go back along the sidewalk for two blocks, turn right, unlock the door, and go back into the kitchen.

The only evidence I have that any of this has happened is the cold carton of milk now clutched rather too firmly in my hand.

As I try to reconstruct those ten vanished minutes, I recall being engrossed in a memory of something S said to me yesterday that I have been shrugging off ever since. It irked me and has become lodged as a stab of disquiet somewhere in the upper part of my stomach, I can remember that as I walked along, I was absorbed in. what I should have said when the remark was made and what I would say were it repeated. The exact words of my response escape me. But I recall feeling gratified by their sharp blend of insouciance and cruelty, confirmed, in my imagination, by the look of fear on S’s face as he is pinned to a rough wooden floor.

Much of our time is spent like this. As we become aware of it we begin to suspect that we are not entirely in control of our lives. Much of the time we are driven by a relentless and insistent surge of impulses. We notice this in quiet moments of reflection, but usually just get carried along on the crest of its wave. Until, that is, we crash once more onto the rocks of recriminatory self-consciousness, and from there into moods and depressions.

Indeed, so many of us go through our day, mindlessly carrying out tasks while our minds are reconstructing the past or projecting into the future.

What if, when we recognize that we are doing this, we stopped? What if we made a decision to stop living in the and stop worrying about the future and bring our attention, our awareness to present moment?

To the person you are sitting with.

To the feel of the breeze.

To the physical sensations brought about by the task you are performing.

To the beauty and joy you can find in this present moment.

It’s not easy, but doing this does provide a path toward mindful living – living each day – each moment – paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment.

It all begins with recognizing that your mind has drifted. As Batchelor says,

One of the most difficult things to remember is to remember to remember. Awareness begins with remembering what we tend to forget.

This is how we train ourselves to pay attention.

Awareness begins when you remember that you’ve forgot to be present in this moment. Just bring your attention back, and repeat.

Truth Requires Action

Truth without action only creates propositional concepts. It’s our consistent actions that produce positive change that leads to freedom from habitual reaction and toward happiness.

For much of my adult life, I sought to understand and teach what I perceived to be truths. Religious truths, philosophical truths, practical truths, etc. I had developed a belief that some absolute, independent truth existed that could be discovered, applied, and taught.

It took me a long time to realize that Truth, in this manner of thinking, was nothing more than the creation of particular human groups/communities who perceive reality in a particular way. Find a different group of people who perceive reality differently, and you’ll find another set of “Truths”.

“Truth” in this way of thinking is a statement or system of beliefs about the way things truly are. These truths are rooted in stories or teachings that some choose to accept intellectually. Religions, philosophies, political systems, etc. all rely on this understanding of Truth as a foundational element of their system.

There is a statement in the New Testament attributed to Jesus – “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” The problem with this statement, though, is that truth never sets anyone free. By it’s very nature, any perceived “Truth” keeps you bound to a system of belief that may or may not be beneficial to you.

Here’s what sets you free. Action

It is your actions on what you belief to be true that sets you free.

The problem is, many of us hold on to beliefs and truths that are keeping us limited and bound to the way things are. Until we identify what beliefs are holding us back, we’ll keep believing the same “Truths” and getting the same results.

If you want to produce positive change in your life, start by identifying the limiting beliefs that come in the form of that internal voice.

I am currently reading a book by Stephen Batchelor called Buddhism without Beliefs in which he explores Buddhist philosophy from a non-religious perspective. It’s quite good and reflects much the same way I approached Christianity as a minister and scholar.

The foundational teachings of Buddhism are often referred to as the Four Noble Truths.

There’s that word again.

They way these Four Truths are normally phrased makes it seem as if they are four things that you should believe it; four statements to ascribe to. I’ll not share the traditional statements here since they are easy enough to locate online.

But the way Batchelor discusses these Four “Truths” makes clear that they are not propositional concepts to be intellectually accepted, but rather claims that require action.

This got me thinking about what it is that really drives change in our lives. What really shapes who we are, how we act, and what we do with our lives.

It’s certainly not what we believe to be true.

Simply believing something to be ‘true’ is of little value unless it impacts our actions.

Your actions demonstrate your belief more than your words.

Rather than four concepts that should be believed, they are four realities that require action. Without appropriate action, these concepts mean nothing.

Having spent many years as an academic, I am accustomed to thinking, writing about, and teaching theory without really needing to actually act on it. Over the past couple of years, I’ve grown to realize that any real growth will only take place when I act on what I’ve learned.

So the challenge for me, and my challenge for you, is to identify what “Truths” we are holding on to and be willing to let them go if they are holding us back. And take action on what we believe to be true because it’s in your actions that you’ll find freedom.

My Take On Buddhism’s First Noble Truth

Since I started practicing mindfulness, I’ve become more and more interested in learning about Buddhist philosophy. Some of the foundational teachings of Buddhism are contained in what are traditionall referred to as the Four Noble Truths, the first of which is usually translated something like “In Life there will be suffering.”

There is a lot of debate around that original word for “suffering.” I’ll not get into that here, but will happily provide resources the the comments below. For now, though, take a look at my video in which I try to unpack the essential teaching within this First Noble Truth by using a different word than “suffering.”

Elevating Your Standards

Change happens all the time.

In fact, the only really constant in our world is change.

There are times in our lives when we really want to change. Whether our focus is exercising, dieting, relationship, or work-related, there are times when we recognize a need to change some aspect of our lives and we set out to make improvements. 

To create the change we want, we craft a plan and start doing our best to make changes. But very often, the changes we accomplish are short-lived. After just a few weeks or maybe months, you find yourself back in the same unhealthy patterns that you’ve been trying to break free from.

Why is it so hard to create long-term, sustainable change in our lives? Why is it that we find it so hard to change certain aspects while others seem relatively easy to change?

While there is no one answer to these questions, there are some noticeable gaps in the way that many people approach change. As a certified Mindful Habit Coach, it’s my job to help others identify these gaps and use the tools of the Mindful Habit System to close them. Over the next couple of blog posts, I want to explore some specific gaps that prevent us from creating long-term change.

But first, let me say this – I’ve been there. I been down the road of failed changed many times. I have tried over and over create healthy, positive change in my life for years, only to fall victim to relapsing into the same old habitual patters. So I know what you’re dealing with. And I know that the perspectives I share here and teach my clients are not untested theories but rather are concepts and tools that I’ve used to create positive, sustainable change.

The first step, I am convinced, in creating the change you want in your life is elevating your standards.

I often say that my life changed in a single daythe day I decided what I would no longer accept in my life. While the benefits of that decision took several weeks to begin to show the first signs of fruit, the change that took place that day is where it all began.

I raised the bar for what I expected of myself, of my life.

I identified things that I would absolutely no longer accept as part of my life.

Of course, there is much more to long-term change than simply making a decision to elevate your standards, but any change that lasts must begin here.

As long as you will accept the behavior you want to change, any change will be short-term. You must get to the point where you will, under no circumstances, accept that behavior. Once it’s no longer an option, you have to start identifying the reasons under that behavior and create (and tweak over and over again) a strategy for change.

Long-term, life-altering change is possible with the right perspective and approach.

But it all starts with elevating your standards.

Expect more from yourself.

___________

[first posted at feedtherightwolf.org]

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