Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
IN THIS ISSUE
Breakthrough
"Productive insight; clear (often sudden) understanding of a complex situation."  Free Dictionary

Pop the bubble of conditioned thinking and emerge into the creative realm of "no absolutes," continuous change, uncertainty and unlimited possibilities.

Then, there can be innovation, adaptation and optimal performance.
Performance and Open-minded Mindfulness
Open-minded:questioning everything, accepting diversity and uncertainty.  

Mindful: consciously aware; concentrated. 

Foundation for blending process, project, engagement and knowledge management into a cohesive approach to optimize performance.

Breakthrough
Newsletter

VOLUME VII ISSUE NO. 3 | MARCH 2015 

Stress Relief and Happiness - 

Meditation Alone is Not Enough

By George Pitagorsky





 

Meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, has hit the mainstream. Individuals, hospitals, corporations, sports teams and even the military are exploring, practicing and promoting meditation.

 

As with Yoga, meditation can be taught by both deeply committed and experienced teachers and by those who have taken a short course and are teaching from a book rather than their personal experience.

 

Knowing what you are doing, why you are doing it and what constraints there might be is important if you are going to achieve the goals that motivate you to meditate.

 

To learn to meditate is easy. You start by simply sitting quietly, observing your breath or some other object. When distractions arise, you gently but firmly bring your attention back to your breath and continue. Over time, as your concentration gains strength and you experience a calm state of mind, the focus shifts to an open, choice-less awareness. You observe everything that arises in and around you. You cultivate objectivity and awareness without attachment.

 

Maintaining an ongoing practice is more of a challenge. It requires effort and persistence, particularly when there are obstacles, like insufficient time, attachments, a restless mind, worry, anxiety, sleepiness, and doubt as to whether sitting and doing nothing but observing is at all a useful way to spend your time. See the Breakthrough article Insight Meditation - An Exercise Program for the Mind[1] for more on the practice.

 

Why Meditate: Relieve Stress and Be Happy

"There are all kind of benefits that usually flow from the practice of meditation. People usually feel more calm and are able to develop an understanding of themselves and how their minds work. Meditation also helps people to understand other people. Also, people generally feel better both psychologically and physically from doing this practice. Meditation is a way to reduce the suffering in life by developing a different relationship to stress -- you don't necessarily get rid of stress but it doesn't have as strong an impact.

 

"Meditation also helps people deal with some kinds of health problems and other kinds of difficult situations. People feel better because they have a different relationship to the suffering that is going on -- they have a certain distance from their symptoms and hold them in a spacious way so that they don't suffer from them as much." [2]

 

Meditation as Medication or For Liberation

There are two principle attitudes regarding the practice: meditation as medication and meditation for liberation. In both cases, the motivation is to feel better, perform optimally and to be happy. Meditation for medication is used to relieve symptoms; liberation removes causes.

 

The meditator who comes to the practice for liberation is more likely to stay the course when faced with obstacles and will be open to the need for more than just meditation to reach his or her goals. The one who comes for medication is looking for a quick fix to a complex problem. The practice works. It relieves stress, makes pain more manageable and improves performance. Meditation also eliminates the side effect of pharmaceuticals and other substances that relieve anxiety and depression and enhance performance. However, the meditator who is not seeking liberation is more likely to stop when the practice starts to uncover some of the deeper causes of stress, for example, an attachment to having things happen in the way they want things to happen as opposed to the way things actually happen. One must be willing to confront these causes.

 

Wisdom and Skillful/Ethical Behavior

When we look a little more deeply, we find that meditation alone does not fully resolve the problem of stress and the pursuit of happiness. Meditation is one third of the solution. The other two thirds are wisdom and skillful behavior.

 

Wisdom is knowing and accepting things as they are and having a healthy intention. It is having mental models or beliefs that are based on the realization that 1) everything is subject to change, 2) stress and suffering are unavoidable parts of life and 3) you are not who you think you are.

 

This last one, you are not who you think you are, is the most difficult to grasp and is most important.

 

"The ego has convinced us that we need it - not only that we need it, but that we are it. I am my body. I am my personality. I am my neuroses. I am angry. I am depressed. I'm a good person. I'm sincere. I seek truth. I'm a lazy slob. Definition after definition. ... Meditation raises the question: Who are we really? ... As long as the ego calls the shots, we can never become other than what it says. Like a dictator, it offers us paternalistic security at the expense of our freedom."[3]

 

We need our egos. They get us through the day and help us achieve our goals, including the goals of relieving stress and being happy. Meditation gives us a new perspective on our ego. We can stand away from and observe it and not be fully identified with it. We can use our ego as we use a vehicle. It gets us around, we need to take care of it, but if it is stolen or even destroyed, we are not done for.

 

At first, it may be disconcerting to no longer be sure of who you are. Wisdom kicks in at this point to make it clear that we never really knew who we were and that thinking we did was the root cause of our stress and anxiety. It tells us that everything was constantly changing all the time and that we were in denial about it. The more we simply observe what is happening, objectively, the easier it becomes to see how we create our own suffering. We see the ego clinging to the things it likes and pushing away the things it doesn't like, like a two year old. We smile and meditatively rest in awareness. The cause of our stress fades away. We are happy in a new way. We are happy because we are no longer creating the unhappiness that comes from wanting things to be different than they can be. 

 

There is a sense of relief with the shift from wanting a medicine to relieve stress and bring happiness to realizing that stress relief and happiness simply arise when meditation and wisdom combine to cut the roots of stress and anxiety.

 

Skillful ethical behavior is behavior that furthers one's goals. What one does affects how one feels. Neuroscience studies have shown that thoughts and acts of kindness and compassion relieve stress and promote happiness for the recipients and givers alike. A well-practiced meditator who hones his or her concentration and mindfulness may become a great assassin, equities trader, physician, parent or social activist; an evil-doer or a doer of good. It is wisdom and a commitment to ethical behavior that makes the difference.

 

Mindfulness makes it possible to more effectively moderate behavior and act responsively rather than reactively. Mindfulness coupled with wisdom leads to a sense of peace and to ethical behavior. A commitment to ethical behavior leads to greater mindfulness and wisdom. Wisdom, skillful behavior and meditation work interactively to enhance one another and to deliver the happiness we seek.

 

________________________

 

1 http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs179/1102273237048/archive/1116335265090.html  

2 A Conversation with Professor Leonard Riskin about Mindfulness, Dispute Resolution, 

and Mindfulness Resources for Mediators, by Linda Lazarus, February 2005, Mediate.com,

 http://www.mediate.com/articles/lazarusL4.cfm 

 

3 Ram Dass, in a March 5, 2015 Blog Post

 

2015 George Pitagorsky                                                 Top

Performance and Open-minded Mindfulness

Open-minded: 

questioning everything, accepting diversity and uncertainty.  
 
Mindful:
 consciously aware; concentrated. 

Foundation for blending process, project, engagement and knowledge management into a cohesive approach to optimize performance.

 Learn More
Managing Conflict in Projects
By George Pitagorsky
Managing Conflict in Projects: Applying Mindfulness and Analysis for Optimal Results by George Pitagorsky charts a course for identifying and dealing with conflict in a project context.

Pitagorsky states up front that conflict management is not a cookbook solution to disagreement-a set of prescribed actions to be applied in all situations. His overall approach seeks to balance two aspects of conflict management: analysis based on a codified process and people-centered behavioral skills.

The book differentiates conflict resolution and conflict management. Management goes beyond resolution to include relationship building that may serve to avoid conflict or facilitate resolution if it occurs.

 

Read More
The Zen Approach to Project Management 
By George Pitagorsky

Projects are often more complex and stressful than they need to be. Far too many of them fail to meet expectations. There are far too many conflicts. There are too few moments of joy and too much anxiety. But there is hope. It is possible to remove the unnecessary stress and complexity. This book is about how to do just that. It links the essential principles and techniques of managing projects to a "wisdom" approach for working with complex, people-based activities.

Home  /  Blog  /  About  /  Contact