Lent and Self-Mastery

Pondering my recent post on Lent, and also the chatter in the blogosphere about "The Secret" or the "Law of Attraction", the thought of how self-sacrifice can apply to self-mastery comes to mind.

So much of what's out there in the pop psychology and self-help world advocates a kind of prosperity consciousness that at times might be going a bit too far. There is definitely a real principle of goal-seeking in our minds that allows us to orient our thoughts toward our goals rather than failures so that our unconscious minds will align with that purpose. But some of what I'm seeing goes a bit further, incorporating new age beliefs and pseudoscientific misuse of metaphors from quantum mechanics. I urge anyone who encounters this to pick up a primer on actual quantum physics and with a bit of effort (there's usually an extensive use of mathematics) you'll see that quantum mechanics might not apply to seeking goals in your life.

Seeking goals and prosperity is a good thing. But if we become addicted to "having" all the time, when external circumstances change we can become very stressed. Periodically taking an inventory and seeing what we can do without helps remove mental attachments that are the basis for some of that stress. A Lenten or Lent-like practice of doing without something can help us keep perspective. Giving up something small is almost like exercising- it can strengthen our will and give us reference experiences when we are forced to give something up by the outside world.

In NLP and motivation in general, we make use of reference experiences all the time. The classic "circle of excellence" that is one of the earilest things many NLPers learn about makes use of  reference experiences- positive ones. Experiences where we excelled. But many of us in comfortable middle class lifestyles haven't had to do without anything serious. And having a small, self-imposed exercise where we give ourselves reference experiences of doing without and staying on top of it will make those resources available when we really need them.

There really is power in being willing and able to sacrifice from time to time (just don't overdo it!). 24/7 prosperity consciousness is a nice trance to be in, but eventually when you run into the "stub-toe" reality where you can deny all you want that you hurt your foot but it remains injured, you'll need to draw on different resources.   

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Lent : Religious or Not, It Pays to Check In Every Now and Then

Tomorrow begins the season of Lent for many Christian churches. Traditionally this is a time leading up to Easter in which the observer will take special effort towards self-examination, in particular by "giving something up for Lent".  Growing up in a tradition that did not practice Lent, I did not understand why anybody had to give anything up. It just didn't make sense - giving something up doesn't make you an intrinsically better person, so why bother?

But upon closer examination, Lent is not some kind of magical practice that makes better people, or makes people worthy of heaven, or whatever. It's a 40-day period of focus on our lives placed in wider, cosmic context. And whether you're religious or not, a 40-day period of intense reflection, seeing what you can do without (use it as a time to defeat bad habits, excesses, or even addictions) will probably yield great benefits.

Aggressive Optimism maintains that peak performance comes when you frame your day-to-day life in a wider context, a greater meaning. Human life has a cyclic nature: night and day, rest and activity, accumulation and release - and one way to embrace these principles of context and cycle is to follow a religious calendar. I'm not sure what John Grinder would say about this case specifically, but Turtles All the Way Down talks about coherent culture and my thinking springs from that concept. Lent provides a yearly cycle whereby those who observe the Christian holidays can re-center their lives and let go of anything accumulated that they don't need.

To adopt a 40-day discipline of some sort can help clear your mind... perhaps you'll make a 40-day commitment to meditate every day, or to pray more deeply, or to clean out your diet.  Non-Christians need not call it "Lent", and they can undertake it any time of year they choose, but I would resist the temptation to round the number of days, as that can lead to boxing it off as "that thing I did that one month". Make it an odd number so it gets loose from the regular calendar and you can avoid compartmentalizing it too much.

Another temptation is to extend your practice all year long, which depending on the practice might be a great thing, but good dividends come from the yearly checking-in itself so no matter what you keep for year-long routine, be sure to always check back on a regular basis.

To those who wish to join in Lent this year, it's never too late and there are so many resources online with suggestions for a practice that I'll refrain from making any suggestions. Google and Yahoo are your friends.

Posted by Steve in NLP, Peak Performance, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dr. Andrew Weil: For sugar cravings, hypnosis and stress control may help

Dr. Andrew Weil, pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, writes in the Tucson Citizen that sugar cravings may be helped by hypnosis, and the use of breathing techniques in order to reduce stress.

According to Dr. Weil: "Eating sweets can increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin,
which can help you relax, suggesting that some cravings are
stress-related. Studies at the University of California-San Francisco
reported last year that chronic stress may explain why some people
crave comfort foods."

Perhaps it's possible to ask your unconsious to help regulate your sugar cravings. The unconscious would have many resources at its disposal, most importantly the external behaviors that get us into trouble in the first place. Dr. Weil has suggestions for these behaviors as well, including choosing snacks with a low glycemic index, eating bitter foods, and he even recommends the supplement gymnema sylvestre.

For more information, visit the article itself on the Tucson Citizen web site, or visit Dr. Andrew Weil's own site.

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ABC News Reports on Psychedelic Magic Mushrooms

Quite a surprise from the Google News site- the ABC News web site has published a Reuters article covering recent research into the beneficial effects of psilocybin mushrooms. Apparently 60% of the volunteers who received an extract of psilocybin reported a "full mystical experience".

But the interesting part  to me is the two month followup:

Two months after getting the drug, 79 percent of the volunteers said they felt a moderately or greatly increased well-being or life satisfaction, according to the report published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

Maybe we can't try and tease too much out of a wire story, but the  percentage of people from the study reporting a moderate or great increase in wellbeing evidently (according to this article) exceeds the apparent percentage of people who reported a mystical experience.

But other than this weird observation, perhaps we can ignore the means used to achieve a peak experience in this case and focus on the concept that peak experience can have lasting positive effects.
So are thosse of us using positive psychology, NLP, hypnosis, or even exercise and martial arts just chasing a high? I've heard that accusation leveled against  peak performance seekers many a time. Perhaps now, with research like this, we can begin to back up scientifically the lasting benefits of our personal mind tech.

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Hypnosis and Religion

In your practice, it's likely that some of your clients are Christian, Jewish, or of another religious persuasion. Now, since they are already your clients, they may not have any specific qualms about the use of hypnosis but chances are that they may know someone who personally feels that hypnosis is counter to their religious principles. Perhaps you have even encountered directly someone with this idea (I have, and while I helped open their minds a bit, I feel I could have been much more persuasive and thorough).

It can be difficult to explain our position, especially in the light of hypnosis being employed by many in the New Age movement to enhance their own practices, and this is extending far beyond the well-known concept of past life regression! This article is not the place to challenge that practice, but I will propose that the marketing of such combined services can contribute (if composed in a confusing way) to certain messages reaching the public that may distort what hypnosis is perceived to be and how it's used. Remember that one of the NLP presuppositions is "You cannot not communicate!" Hypnosis is a tool, a set of skills, not attached to any religious (or atheistic, or new age) worldview yet it's compatible with most Judeo-Christian religions.

So what do we do? We educate ourselves so we can educate others. To that end, I would like to send you to Chaplain Paul Durbin's site. While is site as a whole is a complete treasure trove of educational material on hypnosis that every practitioner should have bookmarked in their browser at the top level, we'll focus on the article Hypnosis and Religion, which is a compilation of Durbin's writings along with those of others in the field.

This kind of material is seldom covered in today's hypnosis training- perhaps it's time it was added at least as an appendix to the training manuals! The question can be dealt with on many levels, technical, theoretical, scientific, and even authority- many churches have known positions on hypnosis and many of them affirm that it's a legitimate activity for adherents to their faith. Find out what specifically the objections are, and do your homework to answer them correctly and thoroughly. I sat down doing web searches to compile an article which would delve into specifics, but in the course of that searching I found the Durbin Hypnosis site which has already done the work. Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

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