How did life get so complicated? Did our brains betray us?
It’s like we’re walking around in a daze of excitement and distraction: always searching for something more exciting than what’s happening right now, and ways to distract ourselves when we’re feeling restless or anxious. This is the “binary mode” that Jewel mentioned in XXX –always trying to hold onto pleasant experiences and thoughts, and push away unpleasant ones.
Why do we act this way? It may help to start by understanding a bit more about how our brains work. They’re set up to help us survive –helping us remember where food is and how to avoid danger. We have brain networks set up to react to things like good calorie sources as well as novelty and surprise. This is how we learn. We do something that feels good and our brain lays down a memory that says oh that was good, do it again. If it feels bad, we remember to avoid it in the future.
Our brains probably didn’t anticipate the invention of the internet or smartphone –which are great at providing novelty and distraction, but here we are.
So what can we do? Well, if we can understand how our minds work, we can tap into this natural get-pleasant-and-avoid-pain reward-based learning system to help us learn what else is possible, like joy and contentment. How does this work?
Basically, it goes like this. When we get caught up in something exciting, like a daydream, a part of our brain called the Posterior Cingulate Cortex gets activated. It also lights up when we get stuck in a repetitive thought pattern (rumination) when we’re anxious or depressed. It even gets activated when we’re craving things like cigarettes or sweets or seeing that we got a bunch of likes on Instagram.
My lab has found that this brain region also gets very quiet when we’re meditating, being curious or even being grateful. This is good news because it means that we actually may have some control over ourselves –even though often it feels like we’re slaves to our habits, urges and cravings.
We can start to pay attention to what it feels like to get caught up in any experience, so we can clearly see what we’re getting from it –how we might be creating and even feeding unhelpful habit patterns that keep us running around in circles trying to find more excitement and distraction, which end up leaving us exhausted, and always wanting more.
The word mindfulness is quite a buzz word today. There are many claims out there that you can learn to be mindful to increase your productivity at work, have a better sex life and who knows what else. But what does mindfulness actually mean anyway? Really, it’s about paying attention, and seeing clearly what it feels like to get caught up in our experience, when we’re sucked into things that are pleasant or pushing away things that don’t feel very good. When we experience the difference between getting caught up in our experience, or trying to force our lives go the way we want and simply resting in a curious awareness of what is happening, it's a no brainer: we can move through life much more easefully and joyfully. And we can even see this when we scan peoples’ brains!
1 - Read the article Why We Like Getting The Likes on Instagram and How It Affects Our Brain Click Here for Article
2 - Watch the video below to learn more on getting caught up in negative thinking. [Mark Williams from :55 to 1:45]
We have been studying the effects of mindfulness at the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School for over 35 years. Our studies and those of other labs around the world have found that different types of mindfulness training such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) can help with depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and even addictions among others. But don’t take my word for it –see if this is true for you, how it can help you change your habitual way of being and even your brain.
That’s why Jewel put this program together.
I still remember lying on the grass in this wide open meadow, and in a split-second my worries and fears went away. I saw the green of the grass, the blue of the ocean, heard the cry of the eagle.
All I could feel was this massive earth below wrapped about me like a hug; I saw the big sky, puffy clouds, lots of trees; and I was getting love from all of them. Even though Love was rare at home, here, in the great outdoors, it was everywhere.
Looking back, this is my first experience with meditation. Meditation in many ways saved my life, and has been the inspiration for much of my work and creativity. It allowed me to overcome my anxiety attacks, fear, worry and stress. It made me more creative, patient and kind.
Meditation is a simple practice that helps a person not get caught up in their thoughts and feelings, to tap into a calm mind, and a calm expansive feeling in their body.
Everything in my life has been made easier with a calm mind. I see things more clearly. I learned to notice and let go of false ideas and feelings, choosing instead - what I KNEW was true. The more I followed WHAT I KNEW was right, the more I felt right. This positive momentum inspired more clarity, joy, and in the end, a deeper love of life.
At first it wasn't easy. But even then I learned to love the process; The archaeological dig back to my true self! When I went away from being still I could see my anxiety come back.
“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
― Blaise Pascal, Pensées
I can promise you by trying this simple breathing meditation you can overcome the initial discomfort to find a very relaxed, calm state that can inspire your life tremendously. Below I have a link to two guided meditations. The first is a simple breathing meditation and the second is one that involves counting.
When I decided to do this web site I wanted to inspire others with the insight, education and tools to find their own genuine happiness. Happiness is for everyone and can be tapped into regardless of our outer circumstances.
Cultivating my relationship with the Observer aspect of myself by practicing stillness meditation and mindfulness , in my opinion, is the most powerful tool I have ever come across, and one I wanted to share with you to assist in your journey towards joy.
The point of this website is not to tell you what to do in your life. Only you know that. The goal of this program is to help you see that you can indeed free yourself from the constant chatter of anxiety, distraction and addictive negative thought patterns so you can tap into your own inner wisdom and hear what's right to do. After all, you are the expert in your own life.
At a young age I was dealing with a lot of stress and adversity.
Our mother left us when I was eight. My father struggled as an alcoholic and became abusive. I lived on the homestead in the middle of Alaska, where most days were freezing from a lack of adequate winter clothes.
My saving grace was the nature surrounding me, and my proclivity toward creativity that cultivated observation , for they allowed me a healthy escape from the pain I was in, taking me out of my thoughts and into the present.
To the unbroken part of me.
CLICK HERE to learn more about this and other tips that have helped Jewel, please visit our Never Broken website.
"A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose" By Eckhart Tolle
Watch a segment below with Jim Carrey regarding thoughts being illusory.
"Peace is Every Step" By Thich Nhat Hanh
"10% Happier" By Dan Harris
"But is it possible
I say yes its possible
Made it possible"...Click Here for full lyrics
Book: Never Broken
I wanted to become the architect of my life - to get back in the driver's seat, and have a say in where my life took me, so I turned to a tool I had learned was rewarding when I was younger- writing. When I wrote a surprising thing happened, I was less anxious. I used my curiosity to observe what I was writing about, what I was feeling, what I was seeing, and suddenly I was in the moment. This felt good. It dawned on me when I was about 18 and homeless and suffering from massive panic attacks to use this to my advantage- if the brain was addictive by nature, maybe I could get it addicted to a healthy habit instead of a negative one. When I wrote I felt expansive and calm. When I meditated I felt the same thing. When I was mindful during my day and watched my hands, I felt calm and expansive. I was in the moment. Not in the anxiety of imagining a future that hadn't happened yet.
With practice I was able to create a healthy pathway - when I felt stress, I wrote, and I felt good. When I had anxiety I stopped and did deep breathing. And I felt good. When I was angry, I became mindful of all the sensations in my body and became mindful and I calmed down and felt better. Trigger (stress) action (write/breathe meditate/observe) reward (I felt expansive relaxed and calm.) But there is an added benefit- what I was actually doing by writing/being mindful/curious was allowing myself to be in the moment. We cannot change our lives if we are not present in the moment to create change. Fear and anxiety rob us of that ability. But if we can show up with our creativity in the moment, we can find a new solution and create change. We can now have a say in our life's narrative.
Being mindful let me be in the moment to do exactly this. When my observer was engaged, I was able to be free of anxiety and static and actually hear my Intuition! What a relief! The mind is full of lies and fears and assumptions that have very little to do with reality. The mind projects past pain into the future and makes us busy with trying to live in the future to avoid pain that hasn't even happened yet - it's chaos! When we can get out of our mind, when we learn to not over identify with our thoughts and feelings, and when we can put our mind in its rightful place as a tool that is to be used at the Observer's discretion, then we find harmony with our life. Our own souls voice speaks to us and guides us in any given moment. And our soul does not communicate our life's purpose or what is right in any given moment through our mind. It communicates it through a quiet sense of knowing. Through our gut and heart.
So what is meditation? It is sitting still and observing your thoughts and feelings. It is developing a greater relationship with the Observer, and it places us back in the driver’s seat, allowing us to respond to the conditions of our life. The static in life doesn’t suck us in as much, so we can hear and listen to our true knowing so it can guide us.
By being in the moment you become more familiar with your greater sense of intelligence, your intuition, your inner wisdom.
There are many forms of meditation, some use counting, some use breathing, some use a mantra. But the similarity in all of them is being still and simply observing.
Meditation helps you realize you are not your brain, and you are not your thoughts- there is an an aspect of yourself that can observe your thoughts.
Descartes said "I think, there for I am". More accurately, I would say "I perceive what I think, therefore I am." If we can perceive we are sad, we are something other than sad- we are an observer, observing we are in a state of sadness. Who is the observer? Meditation helps you develop a relationship with what I call the Observer, or your Greater Sense of intelligence.
Imagine your body as the most intricate and beautiful car. Who is driving the car? I would say the driver is your "I AM-ness" your Observer, or as I often call it your Greater Sense of Intelligence. Our brain is not the driver, it's more like the most magnificent and interactive steering wheel.
Scenario one, A Car With No Driver:
In this scenario, the relationship with the driver is so messed up that the car is on auto pilot- the habit mind takes over the controls and responds to life in a very reactionary fashion. It hijacks you and you feel powerless as the car swerves all over the road indulging in a frustrating cycle of self defeating actions.
Left to its own devices, the habitual mind uses binary codes of 'move toward pleasure and move away from pain". A well worn pathway is established by our brains, and we become programmed easily through repetition, whether it be negative or positive feedback -in other words, we form a personality habit of how we react to the world. That's how it becomes so difficult to overcome negative patterns we learn as children, and along with them the coping mechanisms we turned to in an effort to relieve and 'cope' with stress. An example of this for me in childhood was stress eating- after my parents divorced, my dad became abusive and to say the least, I was stressed. To comfort myself I ate food, and then I felt good, and wham! A pathway was created by my brain. As Dr. Brewer puts it, I was creating an addictive habit: Trigger (stress) behavior (eat) reward (I feel good). I have had this addictive pattern in many forms. Binge Eating, negativity, the need for intensity among others. As a result I have lived with so much anxiety that my life came to a stand still. It was my mind hijacking me, taking the car and swerving all over the road with self defeating behavior and I felt like a passenger that was tied up, a hostage that was along for the wild, frustrating and sometimes terrifying ride. In this scenario the outer world reflects the state of the inner world- it feels out of control, erratic, frustrating and contrastive.
Scenario Two- There Is A Driver In The Car:
In this scenario, we have a strong relationship with the Observer, and it is the driver. The Observer watches all the readings the mind offers up like a driver would read the signals on a dashboard. The driver observes and in time is able to discern what is worth paying attention to and what is worth ignoring. The driver is free of the lies of the mind, of the anxiety and projection the mind loves to dabble in. The Observer, within the state of stillness, can help us access our intuition. So, we can react in real time to life in a way that serves our values and builds our character. This scenario builds an outer life that reflects our inner world- it is calm, expansive and intuitive.
Meditation is the practice of paying attention to your thoughts and feelings, without judgment so that you don’t get caught up in them. Then can you can better recognize and tap into your own inner stillness -being still rather than ‘trying’ to make yourself be happy. By doing so you see more clearly the difference between being in your head versus being in the moment.
By noticing your breath when sitting quiet, and throughout your day, it helps you focus on something that is actually happening in this moment. You can focus on the taste of food as you eat instead of mindlessly gulping it down. You can learn to be mindful each time your foot climbs a stair. It can be anything. Being mindful allows you to see the difference between being aware of what is happening now, versus being lost in thoughts and feelings- which stirs anxiety. You begin to realize you are not your thoughts and feelings. The real you is the quiet inner knowing that observes them.
The Observer And Our Higher Sense Of Intelligence
By no longer over identifying with our thoughts, choosing instead to follow what we know, we are connected to our higher sense of intelligence. When I am in this state, I see patterns I never knew I saw before, I understand things in a way that is much deeper, and I gain wisdom that seems beyond my own experience. I gain insights. It's remarkable. And I can hear my intuition speaking to me, so I can let it guide me in my day. This makes me feel calm and in sync. Discovering how to better identify our intuition, gain access to our greater sense of intelligence, and to follow it, is a significant benefit of meditation. A friend of mine said, a lack of scientific discovery is not due to a lack of thinking, it's because there is too much thinking. Inspiration does not happen in the mind- it happens when we are out of our mind and in the flow of life.
Initially, tapping into our inner stillness for most people can be challenging. I have had times where it actually felt like I would crawl out of my skin- being still was that uncomfortable for me! The good news is this is not a failure- it's just part of the process and what I call Distraction Detoxing. We are so used to being distracted all the time that sitting still without our drug of constant distraction and entertainment must be akin to what I imagine quitting smoking feels like. The discomfort when I first began sitting still just proved my need for stillness was great. By sitting quiet each day for as long as you feel comfortable, you will get better. Eventually it will be a joy and a source of tremendous rejuvenation and insight.
Everyone is bombarded by thoughts and feelings. The more we believe in these thoughts and feelings the more we are misled and have stress.
By being still one can begin to realize how often this is happening. The goal is not to get rid of thoughts and feelings. On the contrary, meditation is about observing them with a sense of curiosity, then simply bringing your attention back to your breath. The more you can observe your thoughts and feelings, instead of engaging and struggling with them, the better.
The more you practice the better you will get; the more you will be able to notice and let go of false ideas and feelings, and the more you will understand and see your intuitive inner knowing.
By noticing and following what you intuitively know to be right in each moment, you feel right, and experience an increased level of confidence, peace of mind, and happiness.
in·tu·i·tion int(y)o͞oˈiSH(ə)n/ noun
the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.
The idea is to take this mindfulness from meditation into the rest of your day, being led intuitively in each moment. When thoughts and feelings come, you simply bring your attention back to the moment you are in, being aware of what you are led to do, NOW.
If you are driving, be aware of driving. If you are eating, be aware of eating. If you are with someone, be there fully, listening and paying attention like it was your last moment with them. It's that simple!
Meditation is not about a dream state.
It's about waking up to see what is actually happening right now.
It's not about escaping conflict.
It's about moving towards it.
Meditation is not about getting rid of “bad” thoughts and having more “good” ones.
Meditation is about seeing what it is like to be caught up in thoughts both "bad" and "good" ones.
Meditation is designed to encourage a calm, open and curious attitude towards all thoughts and feelings. It's being an observer of whatever is. Not controlling what is.
It's not a failure if during meditating you realize you got lost in thoughts.
Being lost in thoughts, then noticing them, and bringing yourself back to the moment is a very important part of the meditation process. By noticing your attention drifted, you see more deeply the difference between being aware and being in the mind. This back-and-forth awareness is what retrains your brain to eventually understand and enjoy awareness and the present moment more effortlessly.
An irritant note: It is also felt in your body. When we are in the moment we are a less anxious, and our bodies relax and feel calmer because we aren’t caught up in whatever thought or emotion we’re having. When we’re not caught up, we have an expansive feeling.
When we get lost in our head, our anxiety rises and our body feels more constricted.
The more you meditate, the more your brain and body can identify this calm state as a reward, and with practice, you will begin to seek the calmer more expansive state of being intuitively. And it will be more noticeable and uncomfortable when you are lost in the worry of the mind and constricted.
In addition to meditation there are a variety of activities and exercises one can take part in that can inspire a more aware state of mind. Many people play sports for example, because the sheer exhaustion, utter effort and attention needed to play brings a person out of their thoughts and more into the present moment. This is also true of the creative arts like painting, journaling, mindful walking, eating, even preparing food or drinking tea. A person can practice mindfulness in their everyday life. Simply pay attention to what you are doing. This trains your brain to be aware and in the moment.
We welcome your feedback and suggestions on additional tools we could provide through the web site. At the end of this video are some additional links and resources we have found to be helpful in explaining meditation and mindfulness.
My Dearest Lovelies,
For the first month of our Never Broken launch, I want to focus on one single exercise - the art of paying attention.
Before moving on to the other exercises, I invite you all to practice gaining this one skill first. Why? Because it is the well spring all change and joy comes from.
So many of us suffer from worry, anxiety, distraction and habitual self defeating patterns. We mount up great defenses, strategies and plans to try and remedy this. But they often become too daunting and we don't start. Or we start and then we fail. Or worst of all, we become hopeless, and resign ourselves to whatever distractions we can find to make the anxiety of being conscious bearable.
The remedy is shockingly simple. It is being still with yourself.
Great insight and originality does not come from the mind, but from this deeper part of ourselves. The great treasures of what we uniquely offer as individuals can only be mined when we go outside the mind. By delving into the heart, the gut, our intuition and creativity. Our soul.
Spend some time getting to know the rippling edges of your own being - your own unique essence. You are a treasure waiting to be exhumed and only you can do this.
Some go a lifetime without ever discovering the light within themselves, without their own breath being taken away by their own genuine beauty. Without discovering their own voice - the song only they can sing and offer the world.
Here is a secret I have learned: The great thinkers of the world were not great thinkers - they were great 'get-out-of-their-own-wayers'.
And the only difference between you and these "great minds of history" is your willingness to get out of your mind, and dig deeply into the still waters of your own soul to see what is written there. Inspiration and originality live here. Love lives here. The ability to give it and receive it.
Fall in love with yourself - not in the narcissistic way of our culture - and allow yourself the honor of courting yourself, being curious and kind and observant of you. Take time to dig deeply into your own nature - even the parts that make you uncomfortable.
Learning to be still, to enjoy your own company, causes you to fall in love with and have compassion for not only yourself in a profound way, but with all of the world.
The more time you can spend observing your thoughts - and identifying yourself as the observer of thoughts, the more fluid and ecstatic life is. All of life becomes poetic. Each day a love song you sing to yourself. And to the world.
And it does not take a pill. It does not take a plan. It just requires the willingness to spend a few moments with yourself. Undistracted. Willing to get to know the you beyond the thoughts in your mind.
Just be. The way you would be with a lover, sitting silently, enjoying the silence with no need of words. The more you can do this, the easier it gets to be alone, and soon it's not just worry you hear inside your own skin - soon it's even more than silence you hear; you hear the symphony of your own soul. When you go deep enough, it is the same river that leads to the ocean of everyone else.
To learn some simple meditation practices and read more about my thoughts on the subject, and even the science behind this, visit http://www.jewelneverbroken.com/
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And for further inspiration, Enjoy the below video - it's a good one!