A Mindful Year: 365 Ways to Find Connection and the Sacred in Everyday Life is a lens on life. From two experts on the psychology of behavior change comes A Mindful Year, the first book of its kind to join the age-old wisdom of mindfulness with cognitive behavioral science—the best-tested set of practices for alleviating stress and anxiety. Written from friend to friend, one day at a time, the authors invite you to start a new pattern—one that begins with taking just a few quiet moments to reconnect with what is most important, each day. As practical as it is inspirational, A Mindful Year marries moments of mindful reflection with calls to action to live in a way that is grounded, authentic, and compassionate. Drop In with us to find out how it works and why. Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh, DClinPsy, CPsychol, is a doctor in clinical psychology and an expert in the fields of behavior change and long-term health (dr-aria.com). A mindfulness specialist and creator of the F.I.T. Method, he works internationally with clients on their mindset, exercise, and nutrition. He is co-author of the best-selling book A Mindful Year (Blackstone Publishing) and is regularly featured in popular lifestyle publications such as Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Marie Claire. Seth J. Gillihan, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, best-selling author, and host of the Think Act Be podcast. He specializes in mindfulness-centered cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh, DClinPsy, CPsychol, is a doctor in clinical psychology and an expert in the fields of behavior change and long-term health (dr-aria.com). A mindfulness specialist and creator of the F.I.T. Method, he works internationally with clients on their mindset, exercise, and nutrition. He is co-author of the best-selling book A Mindful Year (Blackstone Publishing) and is regularly featured in popular lifestyle publications such as Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Marie Claire.
Seth J. Gillihan, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, best-selling author, and host of the Think Act Be podcast. He specializes in mindfulness-centered cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).Leave a comment for radio show guests
What’s the story behind the story? We’ll find out on Dropping In. Our guests are today’s original thinkers. Conversations that spark new ways of seeing what’s going on. We bring it all to the table. Diverse perspectives, controversy, loving and singular voices. Magically stories reveal the common threads that link us. Experience the joys, the fist pumps, the detours and the hard-won truths of those who blaze the trail so that we might do the same and now here’s your host Diane Dewey.
Diane: Welcome to Dropping In everyone. Its Fourth of July weekend in America and time to celebrate our country’s liberty. It’s also time to declare our independence while we’re at it. Let’s free ourselves from ways of thinking that get us trapped. Here to bring you a mindful year and 365 ways to find connection and the sacred in everyday life are the authors Dr. Seth Gillihan and Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh, psychologists who’ve written these daily posts together. Welcome Dr. Aria and Dr. Seth.
Aria: Thank you very much for having us here.
Seth: Thank you Diane. It’s great to be here.
Diane: Nice to be with you. We are connecting from just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and London, England. It’s lovely and it’s a technical feat that you’re here so welcome. Thank you for this wonderful book which is full of personal anecdotes. Each day has a message, a story and a way to kind of exercise those messages. How did you come to write it? I had the impression this was a correspondence between the two of you that amalgamated over time. How did it happen? We’ll start with you Dr. Seth.
Seth: Great, thank you. Well, it really started as a longing that each of us had to be more fully in our lives. As we discussed that together really a commitment to find a way to practice more that to find the kind of peace that we have in certain moments that often seems so elusive to experience more of the connection to people around us that we often can lose sight of when we’re busy and stressed and worried about other things in our minds or elsewhere. We decided to write a book together in which you’re exactly right. It would be based on a correspondence, a year-long correspondence writing every day. One of us would write one day. One would write the next. We would just use our own experience to come up with ways to address the challenges that we were finding just day-to-day and the things that I think so many people are dealing with.
Coupling that with the background that each of us had in cognitive behavioral therapy and in mindfulness. Then the end result of that year besides a real year of connection and sharing together was this book.
Diane: Dr. Aria, you had first-hand experience with Buddhist monks learning mindfulness. What would you add to that and while you’re at it can you give us a good working definition of mindfulness.
Aria: I’m a simple man so I like to keep things simple. In terms of how I define mindfulness it would be as awareness. Mindfulness is at its essence awareness. Then that will beg the question well, awareness of what? It’s awareness of what’s happening around you. What’s happening in the world, with the people, with your circumstances but what’s probably infinitely more important is to be aware of what’s happening within you. What are the thoughts which are arising? What are the emotions and the feelings that are coming up too because it’s a combination of these which often then direct our actions.
Until we’re aware of what’s directing our actions essentially we’ll be guided by them and will be almost like a puppet. We will just be influenced and pushed and pulled in different directions but with awareness, with mindfulness we can have a much clearer idea of what this is bringing up and then creating some space in order to then take more wise or effective action. Sorry Diane, please go ahead.
Diane: No, go ahead. I am curious about it in the sense of creating psychic space between what we’re sensing, feeling, thinking in a given moment. It’s not like we’re watching television. It’s that we’re still immersed in the moment while we’re experiencing it fully. We’re aware. It’s simultaneous. Is that fair to say?
Aria: Absolutely. Viktor Frankl has that quote which really harks to the point that you’re making which is “Between stimulus and response there’s a space and in that space is our power to choose our response and in our response lies our growth and our freedom.” I actually think the analogy that you can use can be flipped in another way. Our thoughts and our feelings are almost like a television program. Often our mind comes up with a narrative on a daily basis. It comes up with assumptions and interpretations and evaluations and judgments of who we are, who others are in the way the world is but it’s a narrative. It’s a story but what happens is most people become fused to that narrative. They become immersed in that story.
It’s a little about watching a film. If it’s a horror film then they get scared. If it’s a comedic part then they’ll laugh but if we ever don’t like the story or we find that the story is actually counterproductive we can take a step back and see you are actually I’m watching a film. I can turn on the lights and then all of a sudden I’ll return and be grounded in the present moment. It’s the same with our thoughts. There’s a well-known study from Harvard that showed that on average four to eight percent of the time our mind is engaged in stimulus independent thought. Now essentially that means our mind is wondering. We are elsewhere compared to the moment that we’re in. It’s nearly half the time we are elsewhere. The analysis showed that people are less happy when they’re less present. Then an obvious route forward is to be more present, to take a step back to notice our thoughts but be engaged in reality right now.
Diane: It’s so cool. Thank you. Dr. Seth, I want to bring you back to comment on the notion that Aria just made about power and the power to choose options. I found that very liberating in your book because I think we’re always trying to develop some notion of power that’s like forcefulness or maybe it is an inner resourcefulness but we don’t think of it in terms of our ability to select. In your book you go a long way in describing this power to have options, to remind ourselves that we have options. How can you go further with us on bringing us to that understanding? I found it revelatory.
Seth: It really is a revelation Diane I think. Aria is describing it really well as he talked about feeling like puppets that are controlled by these. We can allow ourselves to be controlled by outside circumstances and including I think one of the biggest things that we do as a type of thinking error is that we outsource our happiness. We believe that things outside of us are responsible for our contentment. Things don’t go the way we want them to or the way that we planned then we think we have to abandon the hope of feeling happy.
We often hear and believe on some level that things don’t make you happy. It’s not the next car. It’s not a bigger house. It’s not more money. I think it’s easy to get on board with those types of things but I think we don’t take that far enough. We don’t go deep enough into that to recognize even the things that we think are due us in some way, the things that we think that we’re entitled to like feeling well or having all of our strength or having people be kind to us. Even those things are not things we can take for granted or that have to be the final determinant in in whether we feel content. When I say happy I don’t mean that we always feel like bubbly and full of energy but we can reach a kind of deeper level of peace that doesn’t depend on anything that’s happening around us. It comes through exactly what Aria was describing through awareness and in awareness and willingness to be present there’s a fundamental acceptance, a willingness to receive life exactly as it finds us. In that acceptance really is a peace that’s beyond what we typically can even understand.
Diane: The peace that transcendeth all understanding. That’s part of the Episcopalian liturgy that I remember from lessons, many lessons.
Seth: Absolutely. That’s the first in my mind.
Diane: Well, I think that I’m curious also about the idea of substitutes, surrogates. When you say we’re looking for things and we’re substituting like short term, the car, the trip, very valid things that can bring you happiness. This morning a friend of mine gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Viva and I’m happy. Now it is transitory and it is a celebration of life but I wonder Dr. Aria if you could address the idea of people through these surrogates, through these sort of imposters. What are we really seeking? What do you think we are really looking for? Does it change with the times? Does it change with the pandemic? Does it change with times in our life? What are we really looking for when we go out and buy the new bag, the new golf club, the new whatever it is? What are we really looking for?
Aria: I think it’s an excellent point to ask that question because essentially you can really look at multiple different things that we’re searching for and then we want to ask and what does that bring me or what do I believe that will bring me. Often we’re searching externally, we’re looking for the relationship or we have this idea that we need to be married and have children or our society is instilled and embedded in the fabric that we need to be successful. That’s often linked to status or prestige or position or financial freedom but if we ask what will that bring me. Naturally that will elicit probably more of an emotional core value or need.
I’d encourage everyone to ask themselves that. If I’m in a relationship what I think that will bring me. Often it comes back to a sense of significance and appreciation and respect and worthiness and to feel valued and loved and seen and celebrated but our confusion is in thinking that the external will bring the internal. As you very astutely pointed out yes, external can bring a temporary transient, fleeting moment of happiness or excitement. It’s what I would call a thrill. It brings a good feeling and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s lovely to have these different delightful moments within a day but if we are searching for a deeper, more fulfilling and lasting sense of appreciation or fulfillment or meaning or purpose then we’re on very vulnerable ground because we’ll have to go through life where everything is going in exactly the right way.
We’re in the relationship and it lasts until the day we die where we have children and they’re healthy and there are no issues with them, where we continually just get promoted, where we get the car, we get the job and we get the promotion. Life unfortunately doesn’t work that way so it almost goes back to then what you were talking about before with power. Just to bring in Viktor Frankl again. He’d say that everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing. The last of the human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. The reality is that you can lose your wife. You can lose your house, your car, your job, your money, your status and I’ve actually lost almost all of those things but no one can ever take away who you are and what you stand for. No one can ever control how you approach life and whether you grow throughout it and that is yours alone for the taking.
What I find is exponentially more important is rather than striving for the outcome to focus on the process who do I want to be to today, what values can I connect to. We can actually find that we can achieve that in a myriad of different ways as opposed to just the way that society says we need to attain it.
Diane: Well I think that you’ve brought home a wonderful issue for all of us to kind of sit with. You mentioned Viktor Frankl, he and Elie Wiesel, who are both quoted in your book endured concentration camps and emerged with this understanding that you can choose to have a particular attitude no matter what the circumstances. I think they speak with great credibility to that point having endured what they did and to emerge with this triumphant spirit or just a surviving, enduring belief in the ability to control, to have awareness and to choose with power what we’re going to feel about just about anything.
It’s a miraculous empowerment. I thank you two for bringing it to us with this wonderful book A Mindful Year: 365 Ways to Find Connection and the Sacred in Everyday Life. We’re going to pause for a commercial break but when we come back we’re going to talk with Dr. Seth Gillihan and Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh more about how to achieve these skills, how to view our failures as simply a lack of skills and how to take the next step forward. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back on Dropping In.
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Diane: Welcome back everyone. We’re here with Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh and Dr. Seth Gillihan authors of A Mindful Year: 365 Ways to Find Connection and the Sacred in Everyday Life. It’s broken into daily passages entirely readable. I’m going to keep it with me as a companion. I wanted to ask you Dr. Seth about the amortization of regret, remorse, looking back at one’s life no matter where you are really and picking apart these experiences that we view as failures or disappointments that contribute to what Aria was saying about our narratives, the narratives that we’re constructing daily and repeating to ourselves over and over again about what we’re capable of, what we’ve done, who we are, what we’re good at, all of that.
You brought really together for me in the book a wonderful point of taking apart, really dismantling that concept into skill sets versus shame over disappointments and failures. Can you address that and talk to us
About how to view these skill sets in a much more neutral way for ourselves?
Seth: It is such an important point because I mean all of us are going to have failures and disappointments in our lives and what matters most isn’t whether those things happen but how we respond to them, what we do next. That has a lot to do with how we view times when we don’t succeed. I think the first thing to notice is that most of our growth happens when times are hard, when we make a mistake or we don’t get what we want. That’s as often when real change that we can’t see at the time is happening.
We can spend a lot of energy beating ourselves up for those things or we can practice just like we do with anything opening to what’s happening that the things don’t always go the way that we want them to. Sometimes that’s a good thing. It’s not it’s good that our plans don’t go exactly as we had intended. I think part of, a big part of what often happens for us when we start practicing mindfulness or learning to train our minds is we look back. We say oh my God, I’ve been half asleep. I’ve been walking through life. I’ve missed so much of it or I’ve been you’re thinking in a certain way and it’s been like this is where so many of my struggles are coming from and we can really be hard on ourselves even kind of judging ourselves for having been so judgmental toward ourselves all our lives.
We can we can take care in those times to recognize that it’s all growth. We’re never going to get there wherever there is and wherever we are now I think we finally get it. There will probably be a point where we look back and say wow, I really didn’t understand so many things and that’s all right. I mean I have the persistent fantasy that I’m going to really figure things out before I die. I really hope I do before I die. Then I remember I’m sure I won’t. I’m sure there’ll still be things I’m working on. That’s probably a good thing that the last chapter will never get written before our death.
Diane: You brought in the concept of time which I think exerts an enormous amount of pressure on us or can potentially. This idea of taking things off before a certain time. I mean it robs us so much of just being in the moment forgetting about time for a minute and just immersing ourselves in the quality of the experience. Even when I was reading your book I thought to myself well I want to get to this point. I want to get to this point but then finally I just took each page and really delved into it.
It offers so much of an experience um that I thought to myself I don’t care how far I get. I’m just going to really enjoy this thing. It’s eminently enjoyable and I got up till July 2nd which is somehow appropriate. I’ll go forward from there but Dr. Aria, to this point of being tough on ourselves and all this tough love which is just so painful to bear sometimes. What about developing another kind of voice in ourselves, the kind grandmother voice, the forgiving voice? What about doing that? How does that work?
Aria: I think part of it seeing that the voice that we have within our head now has a mind of its own and the ego or the mind has been conditioned by society. Society places an immense amount of pressure on individuals and I’d say particularly on females who achieve this standard of inverted cone perfection to be a perfect mother and a perfect partner and have the perfect career and to look perfect and to act perfectly. That is something which we begin to internalize. Now if you combine that with the brain as it evolved which is to have a negativity bias, to be harsh and critical because essentially it’s a fear-based mechanism. If you’re more fearful you’re more likely to survive and that’s why we’re all here today because our ancestors had a very fearful brain.
Then you’ve got high levels of perfection. You’ve got a critical brain which will then exert a huge amount of judgment on ourselves for not achieving what we think we should achieve or could achieve. We have this idea of potential within our head and in some way we’re falling short. Often what I like to do is to take a step back and in a way put on a spiritual lens. It’s to see that the universe even from a scientific point of view is evolving. As individuals we are also evolving. Anytime that we experience something to speak back to what Seth’s commenting on we’ll often go through an unwanted unexpected event in our life. Often we judge that event within that moment because in the moment it is extremely painful.
For instance I was married. I was with my wife for we’re together for 10 years, married for five. She told me one day that she’d been having an affair with a man from work and was pregnant with his child. In that moment of course it felt like all the things that I valued and were meaningful to me my wife, our life, our house, our dog, our family it all came tumbling down. In that moment it feels like the worst thing that’s ever happened but when you have on a spiritual lens and you can take a step back and see a bigger part of the picture it’s a part of life unfolding and evolving.
There’s a quote by A. H. Almaas which is, “Your conflicts, all the difficult things, the problematic situations in your life are not chance or haphazard. They’re actually yours. They are specifically yours designed specifically for you by a part of you that loves you more than anything else. The part of you that loves you more than anything else has created roadblocks to lead you to yourself. You’re not going in the right direction unless there’s something pricky in the side telling you look here this way. That part of you loves you so much that it doesn’t want you to lose the chance. It will go to extreme measures to wake you up. It will make you suffer greatly if you don’t listen. What else can it do? That is its purpose.”
The truth is that every event that happens in our life is an opportunity to grow and to spiritually awaken. Every pain that we go through is in a very strange way and it’s difficult to understand at the time a spiritual gift that will be a part of life unfolding and a part of you evolving. Whenever we begin to put on the spiritual lens there’s less fear. It’s knowing that even although in this moment I’m in a huge amount of pain and whenever my wife told me that I was in a tumultuous amount of pain at the time but there’s a second part to it. There was a little whisper inside of me that arose and it said four words. All will be well. All will be well.
Diane: All will be well. It’s an enormous jolt and I almost feel sort of paralyzed thinking about it because to find the love and compassion in that situation. You talk in your book about love being the opposite of fear. Certainly when we’re about to lose everything and everyone that is dear to us we have great fear. It’s very hard to get to that place again where you are thank goodness listening to the whisper inside saying forward. I do have an enormous amount of compassion for that because I also think that is a moment when we’re so tempted to judge ourselves. I’ve failed at a relationship. I have failed at something big that I was meant to succeed at. Women, you’re right are enormously judgmental. We are made this way. I’m not sure that we’re born this way. The expectations that’s the word that I think’s been floating around in the ether here in this conversation. Our expectations are ginormous on ourselves and completely unrealistic. Sometimes that boomerangs and makes us into having self-defeating behaviors. Those can be stepping outside of fidelity and maybe that is what was meant to be but it’s a destructive step to take or destructive way to take it. Let’s put it that way.
Back to you Dr. Seth. We are now talking about the extraordinary pressures on women to live up to expectations. What about other, let’s say even more marginalized groups. I mean this idea of getting in touch with yourself, finding yourself, having the freedom to choose. Is this really selective somehow demographically? Does everyone have equal opportunity at this kind of enlightenment or is it somehow skewed because some of us have extraordinary constraints? Some of us have extraordinary external pressures? What’s your comment on that?
Seth: What a great question. My initial feeling is that when you see images of people who seem like they have it all together like they’re living the perfect mindful lifestyle. I mean they tend to be a certain higher SES, from more privileged backgrounds and so from that perspective it able to afford you know $25 yoga classes and expensive yoga retreats and having the luxury of taking the time to do that. Not working two jobs and trying to make ends meet but I would actually ask is it possible for people who have so much to find that deep level of contentment because I’m impressed so often by those who have so little especially depictions I’ve seen of people in other countries that I don’t want to romanticize poverty or destitution or desperation by any means.
Yet we see these people who are living extremely simple lives, earning in a year what most of us earn in a day or less and living in homes with dirt floors. Yet there’s a there seems to be a deep sense of connection and contentment. A lot of it makes me think of what Brother David Steindl-Rast has described as the joy and gracefulness that we experience comes from our container which we might call our expectations overflowing. I know for myself and probably most of us in western society who are moderately well off we’re comfortable enough. We’re not worried about where our next meal is going to come from our containers are huge. It takes so much to experience that sense of appreciation and the gratitude I think that is one of the first fruits of really being connected to this moment just as it is. I think there’s a challenge for all of us I think regardless of where we find ourselves socially or culturally. I think it comes down to the particular challenges that we’re dealing with and recognizing what those are for us as individuals.
Diane: Simplicity. If you don’t get too far away from core values then you don’t really have to go swinging way back. You never left it in the first place. You have simple joys. I think that those of us that do live rather privileged lives comparatively our want to have to do this maintenance every day of returning to this the simplest moment that brings us the joy, that opens us up, that keeps us human. we’re going to believe it or not pause for a commercial break in a few minutes but Dr. Aria continue with us on this thread of the idea of the sacred is also mentioned in your book A Mindful Year. It’s the subtitle ways to find connection in the sacred. Where does the sacred come into this? How do we tap into the sacred and what does it look like?
Aria: I think one way of thinking about it is that there are two paths or two journeys in life. One is the external and one is the internal. The external will be concerned with material status, relationship status with our financial status. We all have different goals and motivations to progress on that journey. That in itself is valid and it’s worthy but there’s also the internal journey. The internal journey is about moving towards a greater degree of self-awareness and self-understanding, about connecting to our values whether or not that is honesty or truth or love or inspiration or creativity or connection or wisdom or resilience or growth. Often what happens is we’ve become deluded and only focusing on the external and seeing that actually within us there is a sacred space, there is a deep sanctuary of inner stillness and peace.
What I’ve begun to do is begin to re-question and redefine what is my idea of success. What does success actually look like to me personally? What do I want out of this life? Where am I going? Why am I trying to go there? More and more I come to realize I’m letting go of expectations of external achievements. I believe that they come and that’s wonderful but really digging deep and connecting to that still sacred space because I think that’s where the ease and the security and the wisdom and the love is always present, is always there. I think the great irony is that in the present is everything that we need deep within us is everything that we need all the love, the comfort, the security, the peace, the contentment, the fulfillment, the happiness, the joy, the appreciation, the gratitude, the blessings and the freedom is already within us. Our task is actually to let go of what we’ve learned, to unlearn and to actually experience it.
Diane: It’s a beautiful reversal and a deep well to drop into. I think it’s amazing to think that we all have what we need. It’s something that I think causes a certain standstill in our thoughts just even contemplating it. Thank you both for articulating this so well. We are going to pause for a commercial break but when we come back we’re going to tackle the subject of connection given that we’ve had so much interrupted connection during the pandemic. How do we retrieve it? What are we really looking for in the way of connection and what is the meaning of ourselves relationally as we go about looking for meaning again in the world? Don’t go away. We’ll be right back on Dropping In.
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Diane: Welcome back everyone. We’re here with Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh and Dr. Seth Gillihan authors of A Mindful Year: 365 Ways to Find Connection and the Sacred in Everyday Life. We don’t have to go far to find it but connection that proved challenging this last year. You two are both I think very, very mindfully aware. What’s going on with us now that we’re reconnecting with people again? Is it even more, is there even more gratitude involved with that? It feels like it to me. Now back to you Dr. Seth?
Seth: It does seem like there’s more gratitude. I certainly appreciate more those connections because it really is our nature to be in connection. It’s a lie that makes us believe otherwise but we are, I mean there are a lot of disconnects among us political, religious, geographical, class. We’re a long way I think from transcending those but on a more fundamental level I think you’re exactly right. This awareness, these things we took for granted just being able to be in the same room with someone or to be hugged especially if we live alone and may not have been hugged for months. Those sustain us in the same way. I mean they sustain our spirits in the way that food sustains our bodies.
Diane: Well the dog is really tired of being hugged I can tell you that. It’s not that he runs away from me but we do need the, of course my husband. My husband is always open for a hug so that’s good but we do feel our separateness and yet what you’re saying both of you about this inner reserve, this inner reservoir that we have that is a form of spirit, a form of source. It’s a commonality. It’s universal. Everyone can be a teacher, everyone has something to share with us and it makes some of those boundaries of geopolitical, social, economic seem very moot as a point. Does this form of spirituality or if you will or philosophy or psychology Dr. Aria, does it have the power to unite us after all of this?
Aria: I believe so and I believe that it moves us to a place of non-duality. Often when we enter this world we create a separate identity and we come to have a theory of mind where I am I and you are you. We are separate and we are distinct. I think part of the spiritual journey is beginning to move to a place of non-duality of oneness, of seeing that at our core we are all consciousness. You can even look at that on a quantum mechanical or metaphysical level that essentially everything is form and space. Form is space and space is form. There’s just energy. Out of breathing at a very surface level this energy takes different forms but the truth is there is no separation. There is no separation between myself and you and myself and the table. On a very deep metaphysical level it is all one.
When we begin to move towards that place at least initially on a cognitive level and begin to see that actually we’re all connected. We are all expressions of consciousness. We can then move to a place where we begin to experience that that actually if I hurt you I’m hurting myself. If I’m hurting nature I’m also hurting myself because it’s all one. The Zen master Shunryū Suzuki would say that enlightenment has only one way to be present and to express your true nature and sincerity. Actually I think a lot of what connection about is about it’s also about connecting to ourselves. It’s about moving, seeing what the obstacles are and the disconnections are and really truly expressing who we are, our authenticity, our truth, our love. When we do and we all have moments of it and a lot of my clients will say when they do they feel at peace. They feel alive. They feel it makes sense. When we’re not putting on a mask and trying to be who everyone else says we should be or who we think we should be. When we are true and honest then we feel at home.
Seth: If I could just add to that Diane. I love what Aria said about, I love what you said about how when we recognize our connection and our oneness then that inspires us to care for one another. I think that’s so fundamental right now in this time especially I mean it seems like especially here in the US and there’s been such a reckoning over the past year or more following the killing of George Floyd in terms of the pain that a lot of people are experiencing and maybe different backgrounds. It’s been easy to ignore and now we’re confronted with it. I think one of the real gifts of mindfulness is that it can inspire action I think of a lot of the people like Thích Nhất Hạnho, who Dr. Aria studied with who were and are real leaders in advocating for change in our world.
I think sometimes rightly so mindfulness has been accused of being a kind of overly “spiritual approach” kind of spiritualized approach that ignores the fact that bodies are being broken and that the people are being are being harmed and children are suffering and so forth. I think what awareness and a sense of connection can move us to really act in ways that improve the lives of the people around us.
Diane: By caring, by extending ourselves beyond ourselves. I mean by realizing there aren’t boundaries, that we are at one interplay with one another. By demonstrating that, by treating, by caring about others hardships and really trying to make amends for that, really trying to use ourselves as vehicles for love, for caring. That can be in the smallest way as you point out. I wonder if you’d also like to tackle the subject, I mean I loved this idea that collectively we’re somehow moving towards a oneness. This one can only hope and with this book we find another reason to be hopeful because we have another tool at our disposal but let’s talk about growth as non-binary.
We grow because we’re whole not because we’re fundamentally flawed. This is a different assumption than we used to hold about ourselves. Again it’s non-judgmental but maybe as a collective we’re not as whole. Maybe as individuals we are but we’ve lost our collective wholeness. Anyone either of you would like to comment on that?
Aria: Yes, I think that really is an important point in terms of seeing that we are all growing and evolving and yet we’re all whole at each moment. The analogy which I would often use is a little bit like a flower. Initially it’s a seed and then it will have shoots and then it’ll create a bud. Then it’s closed and the flower will begin to open at different stages.
Now at any one point that flower is whole and complete as it is but it’s still in just in a particular stage of its growth. We don’t really look at a seed and compare it to a flower and say gosh, that’s a terrible seed. It’s like a less worthy seed or if you look at different animals. I’m a huge dog lover. You can look at Labrador and you can look at an Alsatian. We don’t look at the Labrador and say that is gosh that’s like full lab and that Alsatian is it’s like an it’s not Labrador enough. No it’s different. It’s an Alsatian. It’s not a Labrador. It’s not less in any way. It’s just different.
People might have different preferences. You might prefer a lab. You might think it’s cuter than an Alsatian or a pug or whatever it might be. Even that dog as it’s growing up when it’s a puppy to when it’s an adult. At any stage we don’t think oh gosh it’s less worthy now because it’s at that stage. It’s always whole and almost complete. It’s about understanding that within ourselves. You are always whole and almost complete. You’re not lacking. You’re not 80% there or 70% there. You are exactly where you are supposed to be. Now that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for growth and change and evolution. Yes, there is absolutely but we can do that from a place of wholeness, from a place of love rather than from a place of fear.
I think that’s the key part seeing that as I said before I’m a simple man. I look at those two things in the world love and fear. Our task is to see where am I coming from because when we’re coming from a place of fear we come from scarcity. When we come from love we come from abundance. With fear we’re close-minded. With love we’re curious. With fear there’s hesitancy. With love there’s creativity. With fear there’s timidity. With love there’s courage. With fear there’s rigidity. With love is fluidity. With fear there’s condemnation. With love there is compassion. With fear there’s exclusion. With love there’s inclusion. Whenever people like Seth made that beautiful point people think that mindfulness or awareness is about inaction. No, no, no, no, no. There’s nothing more powerful and more courageous than awareness because awareness allows you to connect to love. In love we can take hard actions.
Look at any of the spiritual leaders or prophets religious or otherwise they took strong action. They took powerful action. They were prepared to often die for their cause. They took action and they came from a place of love. Part of it is seeing that when we come from love yes, we will rush into action. We will see someone that’s been knocked down on the street and we will run towards them to help them from a place of love. That benefits ourselves and it benefits others too.
Diane: Well one things about Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi, I mean there was a lot of action even in the path of resistance. There is the ability to act from a place of abundance and love that does motivate us. The incredible thing is that we’ve just got a minute or so left. I want to touch back to you Dr. Seth. We now find that we have the freedom to make mistakes but we’re fallible so how could we not. Is it just about the interpretation of those going forward and trusting, trusting in having faith and since there’s no scientific proof for even love why not? Can you comment in less than 30 seconds? Sorry.
Seth: I want to focus this on trust which I think is especially a key part of what you mentioned. Trust I think what we came down to toward the end of our book really is about trusting yourself that you’re doing the best you can, you’re growing. Trusting this moment, you can settle into it and receive it as it is and trusting the universe. This universe that makes space for us exactly as we are. I think when we move from a place of trust I think that is that coming from love as Aria was describing.
Diane: Well it’s a beautiful gift and on the Independence Day weekend a way of releasing ourselves from negativity that I just have to thank you both very much Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh and Dr. Seth Gillihan for being with us. We are also thankful to our engineers Matt Weidner and Aaron Keller, to our executive producer Robert Giolino and most of all to you, our listeners. Remember to stay safe and retain equilibrium. Declare your independence. Until next week thank you for dropping in.
Thank you so much for dropping in. Please join Diane Dewey again next Friday at 8 AM Pacific Time and 11 AM Eastern Time on the Voice America Variety Channel. We’ll see you then.