Mindfulness: If Not Now, When? by Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.

May 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Posted in Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Pain Management, Self-Regulation, Stress Management | 2 Comments

Mindfulness: If Not Now, When?

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.


Introduction to Mindfulness

John Lennon’s apt quote that, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” is a very accurate statement for so many of us who are caught up in the rapid pace of our busy lives. We plan our day while brushing our teeth, obsess about the conflict we had at work earlier in the day while lying in bed at night, think about what clever reply to make as our friend or partner expresses their thoughts to us—the list goes on and on, exemplifying how life offers us one thing while our minds are often focused elsewhere. This is a common state of affairs for many people. While multitasking and simultaneously processing various bits of information might be advantageous for “getting the job done”, something is lost in the experience. This “something” that is lost is the full experience of the present moment. To fully experience the present moment, our mind and body must be focused upon what is happening in the present moment, not our story, expectations, thought, or plan about what is or should be happening. The practice of mindfulness is a process that trains the mind and body to be fully present to the reality of the present moment, without the added thoughts, fantasies, and images that obscure the moment.

lotus flower

Mindfulness has been succinctly defined as, “…awareness…of present experience…with acceptance” (Germer, 2005, p. 7). Mindfulness informs you about the present state of your mind, body, and actions. Mindfulness is an antidote to “mindlessness”, the state of mind that is likely to result in actions and speech that are ineffective at best and harmful at worst.

Floodlights and Laser Beams

The “awareness” component of mindfulness can be compared to the light emanating from a floodlight that illuminates everything in its field. To illustrate this floodlight analogy, take a few moments to be still and just observe your surroundings, noticing what you hear, see, and smell. You might be acutely aware of the sound of your neighbor mowing their lawn, the sight of gently swaying trees outside of your window, or the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting from the kitchen. Mindfulness allows you to receive the sensory impressions of these objects within your field of awareness while also knowing what you are doing or experiencing in the present moment. Instead of getting “swept away” by the experience, you’re able to have a conscious relationship with the object of your experience while also “minding your mind”, knowing where it is in the process. While mindfulness can be compared to a “floodlight”, the related mental process of concentration can be compared to a “laser beam”. As a floodlight illuminates everything within the field of its range, a laser beam pinpoints a narrow focus, essentially illuminating a single point within the wide field of potentially observable phenomena.

Concentration and Mindfulness

Concentration focuses the mind on a single object and mindfulness “remembers” the object and notices when our mind strays from it. Mindfulness allows us to return to the object that we are concentrating upon when we move away from it because of distraction, boredom, or tiredness. Concentration and mindfulness work together; a concentrated mind is typically more mindful and being more mindful allows us to stay concentrated for longer periods of time.

Popularity and Scientific Credibility of Mindfulness

Mindfulness can be practiced formally as “mindfulness meditation” and can also be practiced informally through the process of paying close attention to whatever one is doing, whether washing dishes or enjoying a beautiful sunset. The formal practice of mindfulness meditation has gained popularity and scientific credibility through the writing, teaching, and research efforts of Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). An MIT-trained molecular biologist, Dr. Kabat-Zinn is the founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is also the founding director of the renowned Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Mindfulness, Health, and Healing

The practice of mindfulness meditation has been associated with several cognitive and emotional benefits, including emotional regulation (Chambers, Lo, & Allen, 2008) and enhanced information processing speed (Moore & Malinowski, 2009). Mindfulness appears to support the empathy, acceptance, and compassion of therapists (Fulton, 2005), qualities that enhance the effectiveness of therapy. Some of the health benefits of mindfulness meditation include improved cardiac functioning, enhanced immune system functioning, and improved sleep for those suffering from chronic insomnia (Shapiro & Carlson, 2009).

In the field of psychotherapy, there are now several empirically validated therapeutic modalities incorporating mindfulness as a therapeutic process:

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Mindfulness-based treatment approaches have been successfully applied to anxiety, depression, personality disorders, psychotic symptoms, stress symptoms, chronic pain, and substance abuse (Shapiro & Carlson, 2009).

One way to understand the difference of approach between a purely cognitive method of dealing with distressing thoughts vs. a mindfulness-oriented approach is through the following simple example.

Imagine a therapy client complaining of the following thought to their therapist:

“I am worthless”.

A cognitive therapist would be inclined to use Socratic questioning to support “cognitive restructuring” of the thought, helping the client to disprove the thought. A mindfulness-oriented therapist using an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy approach would likely facilitate the client towards cognitive “defusion” (Wilson & DuFrene, 2008), resulting in the client’s acknowledgement that, “I am having a thought that I am worthless”. The awareness of the “thinker” in relation to the “thought” can create emotional distance from the thought without having to change it. Defusion can diminish and remove the stress that can be the consequence of distorted or reactive thoughts, while “fusion” with our thoughts, invests, “…them with authority and consequence…” (Wilson & DuFrene, 2008, p. 51).

Notice how the first statement, “I am worthless”, is a statement of identity, while the second statement, “I am having a thought that I am worthless”, recognizes the distinction between the thinker and the thought. This distinction can be labeled as an example of cognitive defusion, which refers to a process that allows an individual to, “…look at…thoughts rather than from them” (Hayes & Smith, 2005, p. 70). The practice of mindfulness supports cognitive defusion, and is more about the “observation” of thoughts than deconstructive “analysis” of them. When we are aware of our thoughts, we can be free from their literalized constraints. Then, we can choose to act based upon our values and intentions, rather than react to people and situations that activate potentially stressful thoughts.

You don’t have to change your thoughts and feelings to create peace with your thoughts and feelings! Changing your relationship to your thoughts and feelings can result in making peace with them.

Mindfulness on and off the Meditation Cushion

Mindfulness can be practiced formally, as in mindfulness meditation, where the practitioner is seated in a stable position, with the mind focused upon an object of concentration such as the breath. When distracted, the practitioner gently returns their focus back to the object of concentration.

Mindfulness can also be practiced in a more informal way, outside of the structure of a meditation practice. Each waking moment allows us an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Standing and waiting in a long line at a grocery store when we are pressed for time provides a space for practicing patience, an important attitude in support of mindfulness. When we are stressed by conflict at work or home, we have another opportunity to observe the physical or emotional tension that arises, applying mindfulness to our thoughts, speech, and actions, which can prevent unskillful communications and other actions that might impair our relationship with a spouse, partner, friend, client, or co-worker.

The A-B-Cs of Mindfulness

A simple way of remembering the essential components of mindfulness practice involves what I call the “A-B-Cs of Mindfulness”:

Acceptance of all experiences, the essential attitudinal stance that supports the practice

Body awareness, which refers to posture and is related to physical accommodations (e.g., a comfortable chair or cushions) that support the practice

Concentration upon an object of awareness, such as the breath

Acceptance infuses mindfulness practice with an open attitude that meets reality (e.g., thoughts, feelings, perceptions) on reality’s terms, without avoiding or opposing our present-centered experiences.

Body awareness creates stability for the practice of mindfulness through proprioceptive feedback about our posture and level of muscular relaxation. Body awareness establishes a conscious connection to our body that is supportive of acceptance, concentration, and a sense of being grounded.

Concentration cultivates sustained, focused attention upon an object of awareness. In the context of mindfulness meditation, a typical object of concentration is the sensation of the breath upon inhalation and exhalation. The point of focus for the breath is usually at the level of the diaphragm or at the nostrils.

Acceptance supports a sense of peaceful openness, body awareness promotes a stable connection to the body and physical environment, and concentration cultivates mental stability and calmness. Mindfulness allows us to know when we have strayed from acceptance, body awareness, and concentration.

The practice of mindfulness can be applied to our mind, body, and emotions, essentially anything that we encounter internally or in our outer world, including stressful situations and difficult relationships. 

Mindfulness and Intention

Just as attention and an accepting attitude are essential components of mindfulness, so is intention (Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, & Freedman, 2006), which is a reflection of the purposeful nature of mindfulness practice. Individuals have various intentions for practicing mindfulness. Some use mindfulness as a form of stress or pain management, others practice mindfulness to enhance specific abilities such as concentration, emotional regulation, and self-awareness, while the primary intention for many spiritually motivated practitioners is to liberate the mind and care for others with acceptance, kindness, and compassion.

If Not Now, When?

Regardless of one’s intention, the practice of mindfulness is a pathway for making peace with self, others, and the world. Whatever circumstances that you face, now is the time to breathe mindfully, relax, and open to yourself and others with acceptance, appreciation, and kindness. If not now, when?

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.

Please join the Mind Body Medicine Network’s next webinar on “Mindfulness for Health, Healing, and Mind-Body Integration” with Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. on June 16, 2013 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time Zone.  Learn how to apply the skils of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation to enhance personal and professional effectiveness. The benefits of mindfulness meditation include improved cardiovascular health, enhanced concentration, increased self-awareness, anxiety reduction, decreased stress and chronic pain, and improved sleep. Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist practicing in Asheville, North Carolina who specializes in mindfulness-oriented psychotherapy and education. He is a Lead Faculty Area Chair of Psychology for the University of Phoenix. Larry is a regular speaker for FACES Conferences, an organization that brings together leaders and experts in mindfulness and psychology. He is a published author who was designated as an “Author-Expert” by IDEA for his writing, teaching, and practice in the field of mind-body health, fitness, and wellness. Along with Jack Kornfield, Dan Siegel, Marsha Linehan, and other leaders in the field of mindfulness-oriented psychology, Larry co-authored a book entitled, “A Year of Living Mindfully: 52 Quotes & Weekly Mindfulness Practices”. Larry is an instructor of the Chinese martial and healing arts of Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong. He has authored a DVD entitled, “Qigong for Health and Vitality: The Eight Pieces of Brocade.” He has presented his work on mindful movement at Investigating and Integrating Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, an annual international scientific conference hosted by the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He can be contacted via his website at http://www.Mind-BodyWellness.org.Cost $30. For more information and to register for Dr. Cammarata’s webinar go to:




Chambers, R., Lo, B. C. Y., & Allen, N. B. (2008). The impact of intensive mindfulness training on attentional control, cognitive style, and affect.

Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32, 303–322. doi:10.1007/s10608-007–9119-0

Fulton, P. R. (2005). Mindfulness as clinical training. In C. K. Germer, R. D. Siegel, & P. R. Fulton (Eds.), Mindfulness and psychotherapy (pp. 55–72). New York: Guilford Press.

Germer, C.K. 2005. Mindfulness: What is it? What does it matter? In C.K. Germer, R.D. Siegel, & P.R. Fulton (Eds.), Mindfulness and psychotherapy (pp. 3-27). New York: Guilford Press.

Gunaratana, H. (1991). Mindfulness in plain english. Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications.

Hayes, S. C., & Smith, S. (2005). Get out of your mind & into your life: The new acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York, NY: Delta.

Moore, A., & Malinowski, P. (2009). Meditation, mindfulness and cognitive flexibility. Consciousness and Cognition, 18, 176 –186. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2008.12.008

Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, John A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(3), 373-386. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20237

Shapiro, L. & Carlson, L. E. (2009). The art and science of mindfulness: Integrating mindfulness into psychology and the helping professions. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Wilson, K. G. & DuFrene. (2008). Mindfulness for two: An acceptance and commitment therapy approach to mindfulness in psychotherapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.


Helping You or Your Clients to Develop More Resilience

February 11, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Posted in Migraine Headaches, Mind Body Medicine, Pain Management, Pain Relief, Self-Regulation | Leave a comment

Helping You or Your Clients to Develop More Resilience

By: Tina Tarbox, M.S. Tina Tarbox picture

Resilience is our ability to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move forward after a setback — to snap back into place after being stretched to our breaking point. When our difficulties include chronic illness and/or pain, the challenges can be both psychological and physical. Let’s explore some ways we can develop more resilience.

The Perception of Failure

The first ingredient involves our perceived shortcomings and our own definition of failure. Did a chronic illness diagnosis make it necessary to leave behind a career or an athletic interest we loved and enjoyed? Did our ongoing symptoms prove to be something a spouse or partner could no longer cope with?

Our perception of failure is critical to developing resilience. The lens through which we view our life experiences casts a certain tint to what has taken place and what will occur in the future.  Are we viewing life through a pair of dark, gloomy glasses, or do we see things through more optimistic, rose-colored ones?

An optimistic perception is hard-earned for many people. It takes some cognitive retraining, positive affirmation and other conscious behavioral changes to shift our patterns of thinking.  And for those of us with chronic illnesses and painful conditions, our distressing physical symptoms can erode optimism.

If we nurture our ability to find value and success within our current physical reality, then we are well on our way to unlocking one of the secrets of resilience.

Conversely, if we perceive life experiences as meaningless and futile, then we won’t have confidence in our ability to survive them and thrive despite them. This is the reason we need those rose-colored glasses – to help us move forward and achieve some positive outcomes for ourselves.

Accepting Some Truths and Creating a New Path

Another aspect of resilience is our ability to accept reality and to find ways to be creative within it. Sometimes we will need to explore new paths altogether. As a little child with juvenile arthritis, I readily accepted many aspects of my physical reality. For example, I knew that my chances of being a ballerina were quite remote, therefore, I didn’t spend much time pondering what I knew was outside of the scope of my physical ability at that time.

What I did instead was to build upon some of my attributes and pursue interests which were within my realm. My brain worked like a flowchart with the standard, “if not, then” logic.  I always had a “then” in mind since I knew there would be some “nots.”

It definitely is more difficult to handle the “nots” as adults, though, since we tend to be more set in our ways and have more previous experiences with which to compare our current reality. But it’s still vital to our level of resilience to avoid getting caught in the trap of thinking only about what we cannot do. There are still plenty of things we can do.

Something Bigger Than Our Illness to Connect With

Looking to the world outside of our skin and connecting with something that holds more power than our illnesses can boost our levels of resilience. Whether it’s the overwhelming natural beauty of our planet, the love we feel in the company of other human beings, or a higher power, we have an array of choices when it comes to these larger-than-life concepts.

How do these connections help with resilience? We can gain strength and energy from them. They help us to not feel quite so alone in our struggles and can provide us with something to focus on that makes our illnesses seem smaller in comparison.

Now that we have focused on 3 key ingredients to resilience, let’s explore some ways to implement them:

  1. Redefine what failure means. Even in the midst of the most painful life situations, you have still managed to do something successfully. Identify it and celebrate it. Plan to achieve more success in the future.
  2. Is there an aspect of your physical reality that you have not yet accepted? Is it because you equate acceptance of some limitations with destroying what you’ve dreamed of accomplishing?  Dream a different dream. Sure, it may be painful to dismiss or delay the achievement of a dream, but you have the power to revise your dream accordingly and in a way that will ensure success.
  3. What lies outside of your skin that is “larger” than your illness? A body of knowledge, a higher power, the love of your family, an activity in which you can completely lose yourself…the list is infinite. Pursuing these connections and interests can provide you with additional strength and positivity and will help you to look forward to what lies ahead.

Even if your natural level of resilience is limited by your life experiences, your personality or other factors, you can still work toward the goal of becoming more resilient. It may take practice and some time to instill the necessary habits that foster resiliency, but it will be well worth the effort.

Tina with her husband, Adam and their daughter, Mei-Ling celebrating Chinese New Year!

Tina with her husband, Adam and their daughter, Mei-Ling celebrating Chinese New Year

Tina will be the featured presenter on our next webinar  entitled “Using Intrinsic Skills and Traits to Help Overcome Chronic Illness and Pain.” Join us on Sunday, March 3, 2013  from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST.  In addition to her experience as a counselor and healthcare advocate, Tina has lived well despite chronic illness since she was a young child. Learn some of her strategies to help you, your clients, and patients live a more vibrant, peaceful life that includes improving physical symptoms as well. Cost is $30.  1.5 CE’s available for most mental health and healthcare providers.  For more information and to register for the webinar, please go to:



The Five Rs of Self-Regulation for Sleep by Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., copyright 2012

December 18, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Posted in Insomnia, Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Self-Regulation, Sleep Health, Stress Management | 10 Comments
Somewhere Else by Eric Zener

Somewhere Else
by Eric Zener


Self-regulation has been succinctly defined as, “processes that maintain the functioning of the individual in optimal ways” (Siegel, 2012, p. AI-73). Self-regulating practices contribute to the health and wellness of individuals, couples, families, and communities. At the individual level, self-regulation can be as simple as taking time out for slow, intentional, conscious breathing. Self-regulation practiced in a community setting can involve singing, dancing, praying, chanting, mindful walking, and drumming.

The Five Rs of Self-Regulation

The Five Rs of Self-Regulation comprise a framework for understanding and applying some of the essential mechanisms of self-regulation. Let’s now review each of these principles as they relate to self-regulation for sleep, noting that these points can also be applied to problems of chronic pain, stress, and illness.


Rooting refers to being harmoniously connected to your body as well as sources of social and environmental support. An individual who is “rooted” experiences a stable and safe connection to their body, social relationships, and the environment. Methods that facilitate rooting include body awareness practices such as yoga, tai chi, qigong, and some forms of meditation. As applied to the sleep environment, rooting is exemplified by a comfortable connection to one’s bed and pillow that allows for “surrendering” into sleep.

Rooting is about relationship, which can include the relationship to one’s body, others, and the environment. When you are in opposition to your body, other people, or the world, you are likely to experience conflict and tension, which can challenge your ability to maintain harmonious connections. The antidote for this stressful oppositional stance is creating peace through “acceptance”. Acceptance, however, is different than a feeling of resignation and self-defeat. Acceptance is about being aligned with reality on reality’s terms, which can feel energizing, joyful, and uplifting.

With regard to sleep problems such as insomnia, although you or your clients naturally don’t “like” the problem, a lack of acceptance of the problem can result in additional stress, shame, guilt, anxiety, or denial. As with so many other chronic conditions (e.g., pain), for those suffering from sleep disorders, acceptance is a powerful first step towards creating peace and opening the door to receiving help. Acceptance is further reinforced by belief, which creates a positive expectancy that your efforts will relieve suffering and result in healing. Rooting supports stability, acceptance creates peace, and belief provides the nourishment necessary for healing to occur.  Practice: As you enter your bed, allow yourself to yield to gravity as if your body was sinking deeply down into your mattress. Let yourself feel the comfortable connection between your body, mattress, bedding, and pillow as a welcoming invitation to the realm of sleep.


Relaxation involves letting go of tension, a softening or loosening from a prior state of constriction. The process of relaxation is more easily facilitated when an individual feels stable and safe. Therefore, the deeper the stable “roots” (connection) you have to your body, relationships, and environment, the more effortlessly you can let go and relax. The opposite of relaxation can be seen in states of hyper-arousal, as when an individual suffering from severe PTSD is continuously “on-guard” and vigilant against external dangers. Practices and methods that can facilitate a state of relaxation include biofeedback, self-hypnosis, relaxation training (e.g., progressive muscular relaxation and Autogenic Training), and various breathing exercises. In relationship to sleep, relaxation of the musculature is often experienced as a sense of heaviness and softness. Practice: One relaxing self-suggestion that can support sleep is, “My body is heavy and relaxed”. Silently repeat this statement several times as you lie upon your bed, without trying to feel heavy or relaxed.


Respiration as a self-regulatory process refers to more than simply breathing. Respiration refers to breathing in a way that is natural, unimpeded, and slow. Just as rooting supports relaxation, relaxation supports self-regulating respiration. Practices that facilitate self-regulating respiration include yogic breathing exercises, tai chi, qigong, and various forms of meditation. In the ancient Chinese healing art of qigong, practitioners are often trained to breathe in a manner that is slow, long, deep, smooth, calm, and fine. Breathing in this intentionally self-regulated way can induce profoundly deep states of relaxation. Breathing with an emphasis upon an extended exhalation can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, providing a tranquilizing effect without the use of sleeping medications! Over time, the practice of intentional self-regulated breathing results in a respiration pattern that is naturally calming without conscious control. Practice: Take 5 to 10 slow, long, deep, calm inhalations and exhalations throughout the day and prior to bedtime, allowing your relaxed belly to expand upon inhalation and contract upon exhalation.


Rhythm refers to a repetitive pattern over time. Rhythm can be expressed by internal and external actions. With regard to the internal process of respiration, it’s easy to see how the rhythm of one’s breath can be relaxing (e.g., characterized by slow, long, deep, soft-bellied, evenly spaced inhalations and exhalations) or contributory to tension (e.g., characterized by a constricted abdominal region with rapid, shallow, unevenly spaced inhalations and exhalations). Rhythm can also be expressed through your external movements and speech. For example, when walking and talking, you express movement and sound in a patterned way. This pattern can be relaxing or activating, depending upon the pace and intensity of your behavior.

The pace of your behavior creates a metaphorical space in your mind and body that reinforces the process of slowing down or speeding up. Self-regulating rhythms can therefore be slow or fast. Practices and activities such as tai chi, yoga, meditation, drumming, dancing, singing, chanting, spoken prayer, poetry recitation, running, and walking can all potentially activate the power of self-regulating rhythms. It’s important to keep in mind that slow is the fast route to sleep-inducing rhythms. Slowing down will get you to sleep more quickly!

Just as the sleep state involves a slowing down of physiological processes, slow rhythms are supportive of sleep. In preparation for sleep, it’s advisable to speak slowly and softly, move slowly, and breathe slowly, allowing this slow rhythm to follow you into the bed in preparation for sleep. After all, when have you ever heard of the admonition, “hurry up and get to sleep”? Practice: Take time to walk slowly, allowing for one slow inhalation of your breath to be coordinated with one stride of your left leg and one slow exhalation coordinated with the stride of your right leg. Let this breath-movement rhythm be supported by firmly rooted footsteps, a relaxed body, and calm breathing.


Remembering refers to mindfully integrating the principles of “rooting”, “relaxation”, “respiration”, and “rhythm” that are described above. Integration takes practice; consistent repetitive practice leads to self-mastery over time.

A famous saying tells us that, “repetition is the mother of skill”. Although a highly skilled tai chi master might not have to remember to relax, most people can benefit from reminders such as “soften your belly”, “relax your shoulders”, and “breathe calmly”. Reminders can be received in the form of external instruction (e.g., guidance from a tai chi teacher, yoga instructor, or therapist) and can also be a result of ongoing self-regulating practices. For example, an advanced tai chi practitioner knows when their shoulders are holding excess tension because of the refined body awareness cultivated through the intensive practice of their art. In this way, “the practice becomes the teacher”.

Being mindful can help you to remember what is supportive of healthy sleep. Mindfulness has been succinctly defined as, “…awareness…of present experience…with acceptance” (Germer, 2005, p. 7). Mindfulness informs you about the present state of your mind, words, and actions. The formal practice of mindfulness meditation has been associated with several physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits, including emotional regulation (Chambers, Lo, & Allen, 2008).

The practice of mindfulness is like a clear reflective mirror that allows the practitioner to learn about the state of their mind, body, and emotions through the process of non-judgmental observation in the present moment. Mindfulness helps you to remember the intention, focus, practices, and attitudes that can support you in your journey into restful sleep. Mindfulness supports self-regulation and can be practiced formally as a meditation or “organically” through self-reflective awareness throughout your waking day.

A mindful daytime can contribute to comfort and ease during the nighttime, paving a royal road to sleep and dreaming. The invitation to you, dear reader, is to practice “remembering”.

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.

Please join Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT, Heather Butts, JD, MPH, MA, and Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC for a lively, interactive and informative webinar  entitled “Eight Keys: A Pathway to Natural Sleep,” on Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST.  This webinar will be an introduction to the upcoming online Mind Body Medicine Sleep Training that will be starting in Spring 2013.  For more information and to register for the January 13th webinar, please go to http://www.mindbodymedicinenetwork.com/Webinars.html.



Chambers, R., Lo, B. C. Y., & Allen, N. B. (2008). The impact of intensive mindfulness training on attentional control, cognitive style, and affect. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32, 303–322. doi:10.1007/s10608-007–9119-0

Germer, C.K. 2005. Mindfulness. In C.K. Germer, R.D. Siegel, & P.R. Fulton (Eds.), Mindfulness and psychotherapy (pp. 3-27). New York: Guilford Press.

Siegel, D.J. 2012. Pocket guide to interpersonal neurobiology. New York: W.W. Norton.

Lost in Infertility? The Way Out is Through (by Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD)

November 30, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Posted in Mind Body Medicine, Stress Management | 2 Comments

Infertility.  Those who find themselves in the midst of this challenge consider it a scourge. Just as couples feel ready to start a new phase of life, they feel at the end of life in the mainstream now their peers have moved on to parenthood. They feel lost. Traversing through the infertility challenge ranks way up there as a major stumbling block.  The flow of life feels frozen in time and space.

Mind/Body/Spirit.  The unity of mind/body/spirit is not the first thing that people think of as a way to address the inordinate stress of this stumbling block. But mind/body/spirit coping skills can convert this stumbling block to getting on with life into a building block.

How, you might ask? Let’s start with the concept of what I call “The Three A’s.”  Nothing can change without Acceptance. Most people assume that they will conceive and find it hard to believe that it’s not happening. Once the situation is accepted, Awareness can expand as to how you react rather than respond to stressful situations. As awareness builds, options for Adaptation can become clear. Here’s where mind/body/spirit coping skills can go far to teach people to survive and even thrive through this challenge—eventually entering the land of parenthood, by hook or by crook, as a new, improved version of themselves.happy couple

So what are these adaptive skills? The tendency is to want to run from adversity. It is counter intuitive to go into what feels like a minefield. Yet, the key to health and healing is to honor what the body, mind and spirit (intuition) communicate to us. We either ignore the messages of body or mind, or we don’t quiet ourselves sufficiently to listen to our inner wisdom.

Nature loves the truth. And the truth is that we have a built-in tranquilizer called our breath. The heart of mind/body/spirit techniques involves paying attention to our breathing. Letting go of the frenzy of life and just being with our breath is a simple concept, but in this fast-paced world, many find it difficult. It’s a skill worth developing (reclaiming would be more accurate) because it will break the physical and mental spasm of stress, providing reprieve.

Other mind/body/spirit skills involve doing things that also have the potential to put distance between frenzy and relief.   Seeking social support, distraction with a predictably pleasant pastime, yoga or tai chi or mindfully engaging in creative endeavors are just a few examples. It is important to know that it may feel impossible to enjoy life in these ways, but you have a choice about letting the voice of negative prediction pull you down, or deciding to invest in positive activities which have the power to provide an attitude adjustment.

As a psychotherapist, I’d be remiss if I left out the power of self-reflection in the face of adversity, which is often difficult if not impossible because of the subjective involvement. A trained professional can help to unearth stumbling blocks that are rooted in past experiences or in underlying belief systems.

Infertility creates an enormous need. It is important to know that no matter how lost you feel, the way out is through.  Sooner or later, everyone arrives at a place in their lives where what they need to cope exceeds their coping repertoire.  And it can be sweet to know that what else you need to know is available, as are people who can figuratively hold your hand through this difficult time. Mind/body coping skills can make all the difference in getting to feel competent in the face of life’s most challenging tribulations.

Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD

Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD

(Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD, the author of this blog will be joining the Mind Body Medicine Network for her webinar on “Finding the Fertility in Infertility” on Sunday, December 16th at 7:00 p.m. EST.  For more information and to register for Helen’s webinar, please go to: http://www.mindbodymedicinenetwork.com/Webinars.html

Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC

Owner and Principal Clinician

Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC

Five Fundamental Principles of Mind Body Medicine: An Integrative Approach for Optimal Psychological and Physical Health

November 29, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Posted in Insomnia, Migraine Headaches, Mind Body Medicine, Pain Management, Pain Relief, Sleep Health, Stress Management | 4 Comments

 Published on November 29, 2012 by Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC

There are five fundamental principles that account for the effectiveness of using an integrative mind body medicine approach in teaching people how to self-regulate symptoms associated with numerous psychological and physical conditions.  So much of what I have learned about mind body medicine comes from my mentor and friend, Mark Weisberg, Ph.D., a well- known health psychologist from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Whether you are a clinician, client, patient or just interested in the power of mind body medicine in bringing healing to health related issues, you will be pleasantly surprised to discover how learning and applying just a few of Dr. Weisberg’s five fundamental principles in mind body medicine can affect the power of your mind to confidently self-regulate and even alter pain and distress pathways.

Dr. Weisberg is one of the leading experts in the United States in the fields of mind body medicine, clinical hypnosis, and health psychology. He is currently in private practice as a health psychologist and operates an integrative pain clinic in partnership with physicians in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. Dr. Weisberg has published scholarly articles, books, and presented at many national and international conferences on integrative mind body medicine, clinical hypnosis, and health psychology. Being able to have Dr. Weisberg as one of my primary supervisors as I worked on and received a certification in both mind body medicine and clinical hypnosis was one of the most valuable learning experiences of my professional life as a clinician. It was due to Dr. Weisberg’s outstanding affirmation and guidance that eventually led me to establish the Mind Body Medicine Network, an international online educational webinar provider for clinicians and the lay public.

I believe that you and the people you would like to share these mind body medicine principles with will discover effective and easy to use tools for self-regulation that can contribute significantly to life-long health, vitality and wellbeing. Dr. Weisberg often cites the following five fundamental principles as the foundation for mind body medicine practice.

First: Believe in the power of mind body medicine and your ability to heal. We all have the internal healing resources necessary for healing or to significantly lessen any suffering that comes from many health related conditions.

Second: Our internal healing resources can be found both within and outside of our conscious awareness. We can access these resources through the visceral belief and confidence in our capacity to heal by tapping into experiential and evidence-based mind body medicine principles. Dr. Weisberg states that a mere cognitive understanding of these mind body medicine principles is not enough to bring about healing. To heal, we need an internal experience of change that is experienced experientially, emotionally, and viscerally. A neurobiological explanation that affirms this deeply felt experience is demonstrated by both understanding our brain architecture and confidently engaging the parts of our brain that will bring about mind body healing. When we experience a novel and visceral experience, the pre-frontal cortex of our brain fires up and allows us to over-ride the amygdala that often triggers emotional suffering and physical discomfort including inflammation. We can all benefit from an understanding of the tremendous capacity of the power of the mind to influence the healing of the body. Further validation of these mind body medicine principles comes from exploring the latest research that documents the neuroplasticity of the brain and the burgeoning field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI).

Third: Each of us has our own unique set of psycho-physiologic triggers that communicate early warning signals that distress or illness is approaching. Being mindful of our intrinsic power to recognize and heal these triggers as they arise early on can help us to more confidently and effectively bring down symptoms of distress or pain.

Fourth: Focus on noticing the little changes of improvement to our health to gain more confidence along the way. Even if the minor improvements are temporary or the pain or illness manifests in another part of our mind or body, we can see how to self-regulate.  This will play an important role in changing pathways from pain and illness to resilience and confidence. We all have the capacity to be mindfully aware of all the subtle ways to self-regulate and slowly titrate down any physical pain or psychological discomfort. If we can appreciate even the smallest improvements to our health issues, we will eventually be on the path to significant healing.

Fifth: From Dr. Weisberg, I learned the efficacy of honoring each person’s unique path to healing. The notion of allowing people to heal in their own time, in their own way, and at their own pace gives both clinicians and people who suffer with pain and illness the freedom to discover their own terms for healing and at the right time. This individual perspective alleviates the pressure on the clinician to be the expert in picking the “perfect” time, way, and pace for their patient’s healing to occur.

In my own clinical practice, I do my best to honor all of these fundamental principles of mind body medicine practice that I learned from Dr. Weisberg. Whether I am engaged in talk therapy or sharing any experiential mind body medicine modality like clinical hypnosis, I am consistently reminded of the beauty and healing power found within each client to heal in their own time, in their way, and at their pace.

It is an honor to host our next Mind Body Medicine Network webinar with Mark Weisberg, Ph.D. on Sunday, December 9th at 7:00 p.m. EST during a 90-minute interactive experience where all of us can engage in a deeper learning of these mind body medicine principles for change and healing. For more information on Dr. Weisberg’s webinar and to register, please go to:


Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC

Owner and Principal Clinician

Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC

Healing the Mind in Order to Heal Chronic Pain in the Body (by Howard Schubiner, MD and Ed Glauser, LPC)

November 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Posted in Migraine Headaches, Mind Body Medicine, Pain Management, Pain Relief, Stress Management | 10 Comments

An epidemic of chronic pain and related disorders is occurring in the United States and around the world.  Investigators estimate that 113 million individuals have chronic pain in the United States, and this number is increasing.

Howard Schubiner, MD
Author of “Unlearn Your Pain”

The traditional biomedical model attempts to identify an underlying local and structural cause of pain. The efficacy of this approach has not been demonstrated for these chronic painful conditions however, as is clear when one considers the number of people who suffer with these conditions on a regular basis.  The disorders considered in this article exclude those with objective evidence of structural disease, such as cancer, fractures, and inflammatory and infectious conditions.

Little doubt exists that genetic predispositions occur with many conditions, such as migraine, anxiety and depression.  However, studies have shown that life events are required to trigger these conditions, that is, to cause expression of underlying genetic predispositions. Because of the inability to identify and treat the underlying cause, attention has shifted to pain management.  However, biomedical approaches to pain management, including pain medications, injection techniques, and surgical and chemical ablations, have also not been shown to be efficacious.  Clearly, a new model for these disorders is needed.  This article will describe a mind-body model in which these disorders are considered to be related to individual reactions to stressful (and even traumatic) events and unresolved emotions.

Clear evidence indicates that pain can originate in the absence of a tissue disorder in the area where pain is being felt as seen in phantom limb syndrome.  A study by Derbyshire et al confirmed that pain initiated by the brain is identical to pain originating in peripheral tissues.

Learned pain pathways can develop after an injury (even a mild one) or can be created during times of significant stress and emotional reactions.  Although most injuries heal within a reasonable amount of time, pain pathways can persist (become “wired”), thus creating chronic pain that is often refractory to medical therapies.  These pain pathways are often very specific and can involve discrete or large areas of the body.  Pain induced by psychophysiological (PPD) processes frequently moves or changes, as opposed to the pain caused by a specific injury or disease process.

Once a biomedical condition has been ruled out, the next step is to understand the linkages between priming and triggering (bio-psycho-social) events and the onset of PPD symptoms.  Howard Schubiner, MD, who is the author of the article this blog is recreating, as well as his book,  Unlearn Your Pain provides an evidence-based protocol that can assist clinicians and the lay public to become educated regarding the nature of PPD’s.  The Unlearn Your Pain program consists of a mixture of cognitive-behavioral, mindfulness, and emotional expressive techniques.  The author’s program has been shown to increase an internal locus of control (i.e. participants begin to believe that their thoughts and actions are capable of reversing their PPD symptoms).  Finally, individuals who have endured significant childhood and adult stressors and who have suffered with chronic pain often have a negative view of themselves and low levels of self-esteem and self-efficacy.  Therefore, an overarching theme for guiding individuals with PPD to health is the development of love and kindness toward oneself.  This can be accomplished by positive affirmations, by meditations and visualizations, and by encouraging participants in the program to stand up for themselves and take time to do things for themselves.

Dr. Schubiner’s webinar on the Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC entitled “Chronic Pain and Associated Symptoms: Healing the Mind in Order to Heal the Body,” on Sunday, November 11, 2012 will be an ideal way for clinicians and the lay public to more specifically learn and apply these effective chronic pain reduction (and in many cases, pain eliminating) and life enhancing techniques in an interactive format.  For those people that register for the webinar, a free audio and video recording will be available as an unlisted URL link on YouTube.  To get more information and to register for the webinar with Dr. Schubiner, please click on the following link at:


(Blog was taken from excerpts from Dr. Howard Schubiner’s article in the Expert Consult Book, wwww.expertconsultbook.com, Chapter 100 – Emotional Awareness for Pain, In Rakel, Integrative Medicine, 3rd Edition, 2012.  Ed Glauser, LPC developed blog from this article)

Emphasizing the Body in Mind/Body

October 1, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Posted in Insomnia, Migraine Headaches, Mind Body Medicine, Pain Management, Pain Relief, Sleep Health, Stress Management | 2 Comments
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Mind/body techniques take into consideration that the body is the historian.  The body holds information that perhaps the mind wants to forget.  In its determination to keep us honest, the body nags at us in the form of anxiety or gastrointestinal problems, head aches or muscle tension until we pay attention.  Talk therapy provides mental relief and sometimes the body lets go, too.  But mind/body interventions can add another dimension to our work.

How?  Good question.  Many of you may recognize that the attitude of separation of mind and body is passé.  And so you may already have sought training in interventions that keep “the body in mind” like Somatic Experiencing, EMDR or Hypnosis.  Others of you may have been trained in approaches to therapy in which mental health is considered mental.  In either case, there are some simple but powerful and easy-to-learn ways to help people reverse the physiology of stress.

Talk therapy is the most reasonable place to start.  We converse with our patients and they guide us so we can guide them through their anguish and confusions.  By bringing cognitive understanding of life’s problems to awareness, and by building on their resources, there can be great relief from suffering.

But the body may not fully let go, even when there is great mental relief from our work.  In addition, we need to consider that given all of the stress in life, we are all likely to arrive at a place sooner or later where our coping skills fall short of the demands of a stressful situation.  Whether left-over residue or new stressors, with mind/body techniques we can use the mind to trick the brain (body) to let go of stress—often with very few words.

We can learn ourselves, and then we can teach patients that the body, which can be as uncomfortable to live in as the mind, is our ally.  We can show them how to honor the body’s demand for recognition.  We can teach them tools which bring balance and homeostasis to the body-mind.  The key reason to learn mind/body skills is so we can set our patients up to feel a deeper, perhaps more permanent relief from suffering.  Of most importance is our patients get to feel in the driver’s seat of their own lives.  To feel empowered with mind/body skills is to have the power to heal as needed.  And what can be more satisfying for us as therapists than to empower our patients?

Think of it this way:  Coping can be broken down into two categories:  “Problem-solving coping” is a cognitive, left brain approach to dealing with adversity.  Cognitive behavioral therapy is famous for matching solutions to problems.  So is seeking social support, discharging emotions into a journal, exercising and various healthy distractions such as humor or creative projects.

But another category of coping has been measured to provide empowerment in a statistically significant way.  It has been called “letting-go coping.”  This is different from problem-solving coping because it is about “being” rather than “doing.”  “Letting-go coping” takes the patient under the turbulence—into their body.  These techniques have in common focus on the breath.  Conscious breathing helps us use our breath to enter our body.

Yogic breath work, the field-tested Relaxation Response™, guided imagery, the Labyrinth™, Mindfulness, Self-Hypnosis, Creating Affirmations—and more—will round out your repertoire of offerings to your patients, especially if talk therapy stalls.  Join me in a two-day training seminar in New York City, co-sponsored by the Mind Body Medicine Network,  LLC. You will learn how these approaches have evolved from the context of cutting edge brain science and how to apply these techniques in various circumstances.   For more information on our two-day training seminar in New York City this coming November 16th and 17th, please go to the homepage of the Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC at http://www.mindbodymedicinenetwork.com/index.html.

Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD

Psychotherapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist,

Practitioner of Mind/Body Therapy

Author, On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility


Clearing a Space – “Discover Your Inner Sanctuary in the Midst of Life’s Stressors”

August 30, 2012 at 2:20 am | Posted in Insomnia, Mind Body Medicine, Pain Management, Pain Relief, Sleep Health, Stress Management | Leave a comment
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Joan Klagsbrun, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Stress is a significant contributing factor in 80% of visits to Primary Care Physicians and accounts for an inordinate amount of suffering, illness, chronic pain, fatigue, and personal and professional setbacks. Joan Klagsbrun, Ph.D., a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in private practice in the Boston area will be sharing a 90-minute webinar through the Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC on Sunday, September 9th at 7:00 p.m.  EST on “Clearing a Space – A Brief Focusing Practice for Cultivating Resilience in Your Clients (with particular attention to patients in crisis or coping with illness).”  Through this effective and evidence-based modality that can be used by clinicians or by the lay public, one can metaphorically find and place aside each stress-producing concern, and put it outside the body –bringing relief to body, mind and spirit.


The practice of ‘Clearing A Space’ is a method of finding and placing aside each stress-producing concern that is currently being carried by the body. it can be utilized by therapists as way to center and connect with oneself before seeing clients and it can be used with clients as way to begin a session of therapy.

One by one, each stressor is acknowledged, named, and visualized as being placed aside. This practice then invites you to imagine how your body would feel if you could truly be released from all these problems and concerns. For a few moments you get to experience who you would be—and how your life would want to go–without the weight of your issues.

We often feel stress as an undifferentiated, overwhelming burden. By identifying each stressful situation that we are carrying in the present moment, at first experienced as an indistinct murky sense in the body, we can discover the particular strands that make up our stress “knot.” The whole mass seems to weigh more when it is tangled together. Simply naming and untangling the elements allows us to get a little distance from the issues, and to find a sense of aliveness and well-being that lie beneath our current problems.


Focusing, a mind body practice from which Clearing A Space evolved, came out of research done by Carl Rogers and Eugene Gendlin at the University of Chicago.  The object of their research was to ask the question, “When is psychotherapy effective, and when is it not?”  They found, that the effectiveness of therapy was not directly related not to the therapeutic method, nor to the skill of the therapist, but to the client’s ability to discover answers within himself. Successful clients, it was found, waited until they got an internal, body sense of a problem or issue, and then “listened” to the answer that unfolded from this body sensation. Those clients who accessed their implicit bodily experience– their’ felt sense’– were more likely to benefit from psychotherapy than those who did not.

Gendlin, intrigued by this result, developed a systematic way to teach individuals how to get a body sense of a problem. Focusing is basically a formalization of the process that “successful” clients naturally use in psychotherapy.

Although Focusing was originally developed to help in the resolution of problems, Gendlin found that for Focusing to be most successful, it was initially helpful just to identify each concern and not try to solve the problem it posed. (Gendlin, 1979) Each concern is labeled and then “placed outside the body.”The individual imagines taking that issue and placing it at the right distance away from her body. Each succeeding issue is treated in the same way, until there are no more issues left. The end result is that the Focuser achieves a “clear space” inside the body. This technique of “Clearing a Space” became formalized as the first step in the Focusing method.

Over time, it became apparent that Clearing A Space had value in its own right. The “clear space” a person created by naming and letting go of each issue or problem is an active, fully conscious state. It differs from other meditation or relaxation states in that the individual  does not have a narrow field of attention. It is an active rather than a passive state, developed not by diverting one’s attention, but by at first paying full attention to what is in the way of feeling all clear inside.


Remembering and visualizing a time and place where you felt relaxedat peace or had a deep sense of well being.  I have found it helps to begin by remembering positive memories and experiences as resources for reducing stress.

Naming the Stressors We often feel stress as an undifferentiated burden. By entering the present moment, and identifying each stressful situation that we are carrying, that is contributing to this indistinct, unpleasant, and murky sense in the body, we can learn to perceive the particular strands that comprise this stress “knot.”

Separating the Stressors The whole mass of our troubles seems to “weigh” more, and be less manageable, when they are tangled together. Simply naming and “untangling” the elements that make it up,  allows us to get a little distance from our mind-body burdens.

Putting The Stressors “Aside” The client finds and places aside each stress-producing concern that is currently being carried by the body.  One by one, each stressor is acknowledged, named, and visualized as being placed aside or released from the body. After letting the stressor go, the focuser is then asked to notice any change in her body. Typically, a sense of lightness, diminishment of tension, and overall relief is the result. One sets down each of these issues, until there are no more issues left.

Noticing the Background Sense and placing it aside The background sense is like the wallpaper in our minds… that flavor or mood we carry right beneath our thoughts and feelings. It often brings great relief to bring attention to the background sense, name it, and  imagine placing that aside as well.

Dwelling in the “Cleared Space” Once the present-time stressors have been “cleared,” the individual is asked to spend 30 seconds or a minute in her “cleared space.” This step of the practice often results in a state of wellbeing, spaciousness, and sometimes a change in perspective or awareness.

Finding the symbol (a word, phrase of image) that captures the experience of the cleared space By finding a handle for the experience, there is often a sense of being connected to one’s whole self—body, mind and spirit. This often gives rise to an experience of balance, centeredness, clarity and unity. An explanation for this experience is that it enables the left and right brain to become integrated—linking the right brain’s’ felt sense ‘ and the left brain’s verbal account, thus allowing the maximum information to flow freely between the hemispheres.

Clearing a Space is a wonderful brief and yet powerful tool to have in your tool kit, both for your own self-care, and to share with clients. It gives you an active way to achieve a sense of well being, spaciousness and peace; it integrates body mind and spirit; it teaches us to have a compassionate relationship to our issues, and it helps us to take a few minutes to dwell in a larger space where we are not constrained by our problems and limitations.  What a good use of 10 minutes!

Enjoy learning, applying and mastering this brief focusing technique with Dr. Klagsbrun during our interactive 90-minute webinar on Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. EST. For details, please register at http://www.mindbodymedicinenetwork.com/Webinars.html.  Even if you can not make the webinar, you are welcome to register anyway, and be sent a video recording of Dr. Klagsbrun’s presentation.

(Written by Joan Klagsbrun, Ph.D. and Ed Glauser, LPC)

Ten Steps to Self-Mastery through Daily Mindfulness Practice: A Mindful Way to Stress Reduction

August 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Posted in Mind Body Medicine, Stress Management | 12 Comments
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(Written by Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC, Owner and Clinician, Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC)

I am writing this blog in the context of Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.’s clinical webinar entitled Stress Management for Body, Mind and Relationships,” that will be featured on the Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC on Sunday, August 19, 2012 starting at 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST.  MBMN offers highly interactive and participatory clinical webinars in mind-body medicine in the areas of stress and pain management and sleep health. Click HERE for the link to all of the clinical webinars that will be featured during 2012-2013.

One of the many things I enjoy most about Dr. Cammarata’s work is his emphasis on self-mastery as opposed to primarily focusing on stress management techniques.  The term “self-mastery” is more empowering and refers to a deeply rooted, integrated way of being; the effectiveness of “stress management” techniques is enhanced by the person who practices the techniques with the committed intention to develop self-mastery.  I wholeheartedly recommend a book that Dr. Cammarata recently co-authored entitled, A Year of Living Mindfully: 52 Quotes & Weekly Mindfulness Practices.” 

For me, the key to self-mastery lies in practicing mindfulness on a daily basis.

Daily mindfulness practice reorients body and mind to anchor deeply to the present moment. Here are my suggestions for enjoying a daily mindfulness practice that will help move you in ten mindful steps to a place of self-mastery, and reduce your stress significantly:

Step 1: Realize that life is only found in the present moment, so when you find yourself stressing about the past or future, or something is distressing to you in your current life, allow yourself to say “STOP” to activities of the mind and body, and  “return to the present moment, the only moment where life is found.”

Step 2: Observe the breath going in and out of your body, noticing other thoughts, feelings, sensations, distractions as just temporary mental formations, and return again to the breath.

Step 3: Observe the body and allow the breath to go to any tight or tense places to nurture and partner with that part of the body that may be in distress.

Step 4: Practice non-judgment and gentle compassion to yourself and the temporary images, feelings, thoughts, and sensations of mind and body.  When you do this, you are de-centering, which means you are seeing yourself as bigger than temporary present moment difficulties or worries about the past, present, or future.

Step 5: Allow for both healing and distress to be together peacefully, just toggling back and forth and seeing that both can co-exist at the same time.  Healing begins to take care of the distress in no time!

Step 6: Bring metaphor to your present moment experience.  For example, you can imagine yourself as a loving parent or friend bringing kindness, love, and patience to what is a fragile and distressing part of your present moment experience.

Step 7: Observe, notice, observe, notice.  When you practice observation or noticing instead of judgment, you can just watch, notice, and witness, and not become overwhelmed and victimized by any distress.

Step 8: Allow yourself to notice the healing aspects of your present moment experience little by little, as you gently allow yourself to notice what is pleasant in the here and now.  Examples can include thinking about a loved one, enjoying aspects of nature, reciting a prayer or meditation, enjoying your breath, the gift of life, and creation.

Step 9: Move closer to self-mastery by going towards, and not away from what is distressing so you are noticing how you are able to better self-regulate and withstand distress; notice that you are more empowered than you think and can handle anything, just allowing distress to dissipate gradually over time.

Step 10:  Notice the neutral things in your present moment experience and transform what is neutral or distressing into something very nurturing.  Examples include experiencing gratitude as you are taking a shower, brushing your teeth, taking out the trash, sweeping the floor, eating a meal, or the non-toothache.  Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Buddhist monk who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in the 1960’s by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., shares that an awareness of what is not hurting you or causing you irritation in the present moment, can deepen your enjoyment of the present moment, and allow you to live life more fully and deeply in the present moment.

As you practice the ten mindful steps to self-mastery and lessen all forms of distress in your life with daily practice, you will begin to enjoy life at a deeper level, have more fulfilling relationships, develop better boundaries around what is distressing and feel empowered in your life.

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist

For an even more in-depth understanding of the keys to self-mastery for Stress Management in Mind. Body, and Relationships,” please join us for our next clinical webinar with Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. on Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. EST.  This 90-minute interactive and engaging webinar will be recorded so if you miss the live broadcast and interaction with Dr. Cammarata, your registration will ensure that you receive a recording of the webinar.  For more information and to register for the webinar, please register HERE.

Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC

Owner and Principal Clinician

Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC


Stress Management to Self Mastery: From Doing to Being

August 2, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Posted in Mind Body Medicine, Pain Relief, Sleep Health, Stress Management | 8 Comments
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by Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, www.Mind-BodyWellness.org

 There is an ancient story from the Zen tradition about a young monk who was committed to seeking enlightenment. His master guided him to the edge of a meadow and said to him, “Walk deeper into the meadow and align your senses fully with your experience. What you first fully experience will be your door to enlightenment.”  The young monk strode deeper into the meadow and came upon the sound of a gently flowing brook. He immediately experienced a sense of profound peace and unity; there was nothing to do, as he was enraptured by a state of pure Being.  The monk ran back to his master, who was meditating at the edge of the meadow. Upon hearing the young disciple approach him, the master asked, “what did you experience?” The monk replied, “Just as you said…my deep experience of the sound of water from a flowing brook became the door to enlightenment.” The master responded, “and?” The young monk was pensive, and then asked his master, “What if I did not hear the sound of the flowing brook…what if I heard or saw nothing at all…what then would be the door to enlightenment?” The master simply replied, “That would be your doorway.”

There are many “doorways” to managing stress.  “Stress management” has become a pop phrase that sometimes equates into applying a mechanical technique to something that is distressing to an individual. Without a doubt, there are many useful stress management methods, skills, and practices, including mindfulness meditation, cognitive restructuring, biofeedback, self-hypnosis, autogenic training, progressive muscular relaxation, cognitive defusion, assertive communication, yoga, tai chi, and qigong.  While these can be extremely helpful to individuals in distress, I prefer to reframe the idea of stress management as a deeper reflection of what can be called “self-management”. Stress management is often about “doing”; self-management is more about “being”. Preoccupation with “managing”, “conquering”, or “transforming” something called “stress” can paradoxically create more stress! In that dynamic, stress becomes an enemy to be vanquished, rather than a reflection of self to be appreciated and integrated.

Where then shall we begin in our journey of stress management, if not with a powerful technique to apply to our discomfort? I recommend beginning with intention, self-awareness, and attitude.

Questions such as “What am I seeking or expecting?” and “What skills am I willing to learn and practice?” can help to clarify one’s intention. Without a focused intention that is supported by self-awareness and an uplifted attitude, the best stress management methods are less likely to succeed.

Self-awareness can begin with a mindful connection to body, mind, and breath. Self-awareness allows us to notice physical tension, mental activity, and the quality of our breath (e.g., shallow, deep, constricted, or calm), which can be viewed as a bridge between the mind and body.

A non-judgmental, accepting attitude can combine with intention and self-awareness to neutralize the emotional impact of self-defeating thoughts and stories that interfere with our ability to manage stress.

Above, I made mention of the term “self-management” as a reframing of the term “stress management”. Self-management is an empowering term that is not just about what we “do” when we are coping with distress. Self-management also involves who we are “being” in our world, whether we are experiencing joy, anxiety, or boredom. For example, are we being open, accepting, and receptive to the challenging people and situations in our lives or are we being avoidant, judgmental, and oppositional? Our state of being can contribute more stress to inherently stressful situations or can conversely add more stability to our encounters with the stressors that we face.

With a clear intention and keen self-awareness, proficiency with stress management skills and practices can lead to consistent self-management that is supportive of physical health, emotional wellbeing, and relationship satisfaction.

Certainly, what we do to manage stress can significantly influence the quality of our lives. Over time, self-management can evolve into “self-mastery”, where skills become integrated into the body-mind to such a degree that we can rely upon a natural way of being to harmonize with our inner and outer challenges.

As you walk deeper into the meadow of your life, what you do matters. Who you are being is yet another matter. Doing is a precondition for taking the first steps towards managing stress. Consistent practicing of stress management skills is a precondition for self-management. An integrated state of being is a precondition for self-mastery. The door is open. Enjoy the journey!

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. will be our featured clinical webinar presenter on Sunday, August 19, 2012 as part of our Mind Body Medicine Network’s schedule of 2012 – 2013 offerings in the areas of stress, pain, and sleep management. The 90-minute interactive webinar entitled “Stress Management for Body, Mind and Relationships” will begin at 7:00 p.m. EST and will also be available as a video recording.   Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist practicing in Asheville, North Carolina, and is a member of the faculty of University of Phoenix Online. He is passionately involved in the emerging field of mindfulness-oriented therapy and is a regular speaker for FACES Conferences, an organization that brings together leaders and experts in mindfulness and psychology. He will be leading a FACES educational retreat in Bali during July 2013. Larry is a published author who was designated as an “Author-Expert” by IDEA for his writing, teaching, and service in the field of mind-body health, fitness, and wellness. Along with Jack Kornfield, Dan Siegel, and other leaders in the mindfulness field, Larry recently co-authored a book entitled, “A Year of Living Mindfully: 52 Quotes & Weekly Mindfulness Practices”. In addition to his involvement in the profession of psychology, Larry is an instructor of the Chinese martial and healing arts of Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong. In his spare time, he is a professional musician and performance artist who has performed locally, nationally, and internationally. He can be contacted via his website at www.Mind-BodyWellness.org. Please join us for Dr. Cammarata’s webinar by going to the following link to get more information and for registration:


Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist

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