Mindful All Over Again

Mindfulness Awareness and Equanimity

The real meditation is how you live your life. - Jon Kabat-Zinn

I'm absolutely thrilled with the top-notch quality of the Mindfulness Fundamentals online course that I'm taking through www.mindfulschools.org, and highly recommend this beginner's (mind) intensive/refresher for any service provider, even for long time meditators like me. I absorbed many gems of wisdom during week one alone that not only will refine my own practice, but my ability to reach my audience and understand where they could be getting stuck.

The program is informed by the latest and greatest discoveries and trends that are expertly distilled and consolidated by researchers, practitioners, teachers, psychologists, and school administrators, and enhanced by the online company of passionate and wonderful participants with similar backgrounds as well as parents, practitioners, and other service providers from all over the US and world. The best part for me is imagining the hundreds of thousands of adorable kids (K-12) in all US states and 60 + countries throughout the world (see clips and documentaries on website) practicing and benefiting from these child-friendly, delightfully accessible teachings and this stellar and caring group of game changers, whose impact is exponentially growing.

For instance, loved this brilliant little nugget - Program developer, Matthew Brensilver, who is also an instructor at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, shared research data that identified present-time awareness and equanimity as the two core dimensions of mindfulness. He compared equanimity to a stable (vs a wobbling) telescope, which greatly aids the one-pointed focus and goal of present-time awareness. Obtaining greater focus and higher resolution during present-time awareness is exponentially more difficult to sustain without stillness, but stillness is also not very beneficial if vision is blurry and lacks the needed nuance to offer information and direction to further us along our path of self-discovery.

Participants high in present-time awareness and low in equanimity (i.e. strong compulsions to act on preferences, and consumed and overwhelmed by certain experiences and feelings) were in greater psychological distress than participants with less present-time awareness. This is probably why and where denial and "ignorance is bliss" mottos pay off, but puts naturally open and aware people who want to make a difference between a rock and a hard place (and leads to another creative but not very sustainable solution - dissociation - more on this another time).

Adding equanimity to the mix, however, brings spaciousness and freedom in the intensity of the moment, and greatly helps with grounding. As my amazing trailblazing friend and founding director, Megan Cowan, astutely pointed out, a newer interest and understanding in the literature is the realization that the point of mindfulness practice is not just to cultivate attention, but to examine the quality of that attention - how we are relating to what we attend to and what we become aware of.

She is particularly emphasizing the benefits of learning to cultivate a receptive, non-doing, unhooked relationship to feelings and experiences, because this holds the key to the relief and tranquility that many meditators are able to access in the midst of hardship and intense emotion. And this skill eventually leads to clear, non-attached and more effective action.

The telescope metaphor of mindfulness is such a gem and makes my job in explaining the inner critic so much easier (than if I were to springboard from my own samatha and vipassana formal meditation training, for instance 😊).

The inner critic develops in a cultural context where the default, mainstream, mindless focus of the telescope is on aspects of life that promise misguided and often materialistic notions of success, worth, happiness, security, and power. By adulthood, our innate joy of what it truly means to be human is sadly barricaded behind a thick wall of interfering thoughts, according to program director, Chris McKenna, who's passionate about working with youth because of his belief that kids are better connected to this natural state of well-being and aliveness than adults.

I agree and think that for many adults reclaiming their inner wisdom and natural mindful inclinations is a brave, revolutionary, counter-culture act in and of itself, because of interfering thoughts that are heavily influenced by slanted social constructs and values. Most of my clients are able to detect similar underlying themes around fear, pain, and survival in their thinking content. Their early attempts to counter these social messages, messengers, and rigid attachments (and addictions) that fueled the status quo were often met with abuse, harsh criticism, invisibility, ridicule, disapproval, lack of respect, lack of acknowledgment, and financial failure.

It's hard enough to keep our telescope stable and to zoom in on what truly matters. It's even harder when our internalized inner critic gets in the way, and when it's combated by another layer of our strong, fix-it, compulsive ego-will to override the frustrating critical inner voices.

Shamanic journeying is like taking mindfulness meditation up one notch, and working with helpers and guides who work at the back end of the problem and enhance present-time awareness with a fresh, expanded perspective. They offer ingenious, creative solutions that our normal thinking mind is incapable of producing. When we are doing figure 8's with our telescope and can't regain our one-pointed focus, they find some opening and gently point the end of our telescope back on its target. When we impatiently and recklessly turn the zoom-in dial and are unable to focus, they slow down our trigger happy fingers and find that soft little spot that we keep missing.

Most of all, they mess with our sense of helplessness and diminish our investment in our false, self-fulfilling stories of powerlessness, which is of utmost important to dislodge the sabotaging inner critic.

Looking forward to learning more and making addition connections between this long, deep tradition of mindfulness meditation, shamanic journeying, and uprooting of the inner critic.


I am Loraine Van Tuyl, PhD, CHT, holistic psychologist, spiritual teacher, depth hypnosis practitioner, and shamanic healer from the Sacred Healing Well, and am devoted to helping wisdom keepers, seekers, healers, and teachers dive deep into their self-healing potential and carve out their sacred dream paths in service of their dynamic whole self and the greater good. I am also the coordinator of the Sacred Stream's Space Clearing Society, a group of talented shamanic and energy practitioners who offer monthly space clearings to healers, community leaders, and public servants in the broader San Francisco Bay Area to help them maintain an optimal space for transformation.

My memoir, Amazon Wisdom Keeper: a modern psychologist's bold journey in reclaiming her intuitive mind and divine nature will be out in 2016. Amazon Wisdom Keeper Book trailer: https://youtu.be/i8NmNV-iXU4

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