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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

This is it! Letting Go of Daily Struggle

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 2nd 2009

bulb cartoonIn his book, Wherever You Go, There You Are Jon Kabat-Zinn describes a New Yorker Cartoon where two Zen Monks are sitting side by side meditating. After a while, the younger Monk turns to the older Monk quizzically. The older Monk then replies, "Nothing happens, this is it." So often we go through life doing things and expecting something to come from it. We may do a favor for someone expecting something in return or maybe we practice Yoga so we will look for fit or be relaxed, or maybe we're going to practice meditation in order to break some old habits. Expectations can be fraught with problems and here is why.

As soon as we do something with the expectation of something else happening, we are more likely to lose the ability to stay present and set ourselves up for disappointment. This affects anyone day to day and has a significant effect on depressive relapse. How? By focusing on the expectation, you are narrowing in on the gap in between where you are and where you would rather be. If you are not where you would rather be, you feel "less than" and disappointed with your current state. There is nothing wrong with a little disappointment as it can create motivation to improve, but when this becomes a habit, it can lead to depressed mood.

Life is full of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, tragedies and triumphs. The truth is, it is all part of life. What if from time to time when we were not feeling well or when we were feeling great we could say "this is it! Yes, this is a part of life and it is already here right now, let me open up to feel it." This simple phrase can bring us closer to accepting the reality of the present moment and allow us to experience life as it is, right now. This in no way means resigning to the uncomfortable feelings that may be here, but quite the opposite. We need to be able to be present with what is here to recognize that we have a choice in how to responds.

The great paradox of mindfulness practice, the practice of intentionally paying attention to present moment without judgment, is that we let go of wanting the experience to be anything other than it is we have more of an ability to make a change. We just accept or acknowledge things as they are from moment to moment. In other words, when we stop the habitual struggle of wanting to be somewhere else, we can stop the war inside and begin to listen more deeply to ourselves and others. This renewed connection can open us up to strengths of compassion, empathy, and a greater ability to trust in our own experience.

Try saying "This is it!" from time to time throughout the day. Tune into your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Do you notice more pleasant or unpleasant feelings? Get to know how you're doing during these days that pass. Does this make a difference in how you choose to respond to the next moment?

As always, please share your thoughts and questions below. Your additions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

 

 

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    it's what I needed to read - Rhys - Jan 4th 2012

    Dr. Goldstein, this is exactly what I needed to read and understand right now, thanks for writing it :)

    Knowing the right Therapy to deal with your situation! - Paula - Apr 6th 2009

    I suffer with Bipolar, Anxiety, Insomnia, Panik attacks, among a few to mention!

    I am wondering what would help me deal with these issues! Mark & Allan have both tried to advise but i find that I haven't got the patience to try out some of these techniches! 

    I am very quick tempered and don't think before I start shouting my mouth off! In a predicament like previously, where I don't listen and jump straight in, I find that by taking a deep breath and trying to slow my breathing or by counting to ten, simply doesn't work? Any advice to help me deal with these sittuations would be much appreciated!

    I would find it very diffucult making an appointment and arrangeing a day & time to come to a private consultation, as I live in the UK.

    Thank you. 

    Almost 35 years - HankZappa - Apr 5th 2009

    I learned TM in college almost 35 years ago. I shudder to think how I might have dealt with my parent's deaths, my wife's lengthy illness and recent death were it not for the ability to step back from a situation. Sure I have moments that I really grabbed hold of the anguish, anger and depression and I cry like a child. I know that is necessary in dealing with the emotions. Don't hold them in or you will certainly burst from the inside out.My wife was bi-polar the last three years of her life and tried to blame me for her problems. By remaining calm (most of the time) and researching the illness I came to understand it wasn't her but the illness speaking. I wouldn't wish the illness on my worst enemy.

    A Difficult Task - Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. - Apr 3rd 2009

    Being a caregiver is one of the most difficult tasks out there and also one that often takes a great toll. Let me first express my deep admiration for the work you have done. I practicing mindfulness, what we're trying to do here is just gain a sense of the present moment, without judgment. As soon as we "try to relax" we are reaching for something other than the here and now. Rather than trying to relax, we're just acknowledging things as they are. It may be unpleasant or uncomfortable, but sometimes allow that to be enables it to pass sooner and opens us up to making a change for ourselves. This is difficult to do in deep depression or deep grieving, but can be facilitated with a skilled therapist.  

    How Can Someone Be Relaxed - Carlos - Apr 2nd 2009

    How can somebody regain the full present moment state sensation when that person spent 4 years assisting a relative in a nursing home that suffered a stroke.  How can somebody be relaxed again after so much time being under the expectation that the relative was going to get better and anxiety of how she was being treated in the nursing home?

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