Friday, October 15, 2010

Monday Mindfulness with Craig Polsfuss

Please tell me about yourself: who are you, what do you do for a living, where is your home base?
Craig Polsfuss, MA, LP, LICSW
(Psychologist and clinical social worker in Minneapolis, Minnesota)
- Among the original group of psychology and business professionals nationally pioneering the innovative Three Principles.
- Clinical practice in Three Principles-based psychotherapy, marriage counseling and addictions aftercare.
- Train and coach business and  helping professionals in the Three Principles.
- Three Principles-based corporate training and development service providing executive and leadership development, team building and services for creating healthy company culture. 
- Co-authored two peer reviewed articles on applying the Three Principles to leadership development and high performance recently published in professional journals. (Complementary copies available by request.)
- Working on two books and a major project to be launched next year to bring the Three Principles to the world.
If you only had a few words to describe mindfulness, what would you say?
Mindfulness is more than a practice. It is who we are and into what we are evolving/awakening.

I’m fascinated at hearing about how people became involved in meditation and other mindfulness practices. How did this become part of your life?
In my expanding interest in the world, humanity and spirituality, I became interested in college, researched and practiced various forms of meditation and enjoyed and benefitted from most. I eventually found one that is absolutely unique (see below) and have enjoyed it immensely for the past 32 years.

Why has meditation/mindfulness become important to you? How has your experience of life changed?
What I practice is unique in this respect: From all my research (and by no means to I claim to have done an exhaustive investigation), most meditation practices involve techniques to quiet the mind and produce more mindfulness. In time and with a quiet enough mind, a person can attain an inner experience of enlightenment and fulfillment (or whatever terms one would use to describe "higher" or "the ultimate" experience).
The teacher of what I practice caught my attention when he stated, "What I teach you do not have to practice for four years or forty years or four lifetimes and then you will have the experience you seek. I will put you directly in touch with that experience, and then your practice is to just stay with it."
I had never heard this and have not heard it since from anyone else. So I now have the means to directly connect to that ultimate inner experience at will at any moment -- whether in formal practice or not -- and in doing so I have become one with that experience more and more.
How has this changed my life? It has revealed who I really am, how life really works, and made contentment, gratitude and bliss my daily mode. I went from living "outside in" to "inside out". Although there have been many challenging moments since that transformation, my life has been predominantly magical and fulfilling -- an internal love affair.
In addition, it changed how I understood the human experience and human functioning and dramatically changed how I worked with people. As a result I became one of the first professionals to embrace the Three Principles when they were discovered, and am subsequently a national pioneer. 

Please tell me a little bit about your practice. What makes it unique or different? What makes it helpful?
All of my professional work is based on the Three Principles of Human Experience (Mind, Consciousness and Thought). These explain in a profoundly simple and precise way the source and substance of human experience, why human experience becomes what it does, and how it can be naturally transformed into more health, fulfillment and success. Thankfully, I am able to use psychological language to convey profound spiritual truths to those who may be uncomfortable with spiritual language.
Three Principles practitioners do not teach nor promote meditation practices (nor do they discourage them). The Three Principles teaches/facilitates a state of meditation/mindfulness in which the client can operate more and more deeply and consistently. We equate a waking state of meditation/mindfulness with healthy psychological functioning.
So much of what I do is unique. One of the most important is that via simply raising a person's understanding of these principles, the results spontaneously start to manifest. No techniques or mental practices are necessary. A person's innate health, wisdom and capability is awakened and expresses itself in new and wonderful ways. This is so fundamental that it can be "applied" in any human endeavor. I have chosen to work primarily in the areas described above, but I am always open to exploring new ways to share this powerful understanding and create positive outcomes.  

As a psychologist I work with many people who face down experiences of evil, death, pain, and other “dark nights of the soul.” Do you have thoughts about how your meditation/mindfulness practice might speak to those experiences?
Mind, Consciousness and Thought explain these completely and in doing so completely extract their apparent power (potentially determined by the depth of the client's listening). They are all manifestation of thought produced by the mind and coming alive in consciousness. As a person recognizes this their "mindful" system automatically adjusts itself in a more healthy direction (not unlike instinctually pulling ones hand away from the fire that is getting too hot). 

Does your meditation practice lead you to think about anything in particular about psychotherapy, mental illness, or the change process?
Yes -- see above -- and there is too much to state than possible here.

Has your practice increased your capacity to experience compassion? How has that happened? What have you noticed?
Absolutely! Seeing that all human being operate the same way (despite the completely unique expressions of each person's functioning) and that I and the other are one, uncovers both great compassion and great confidence in the potential of their discovering their own innate health, wisdom and capability. One become more soft-hearted and sensitive, in a healthy way.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to meditate/be more mindful?
Follow your heart, and don't settle for anything that does not truly satisfy it.
Are there other thoughts you’d like to share?
I hope this was useful. It sounds like you're doing good and interesting work. I'd love to chat more if you're interested. Best wishes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Inaugural Monday Mindfulness with Erica Walch

I'm starting a new project this week about mindfulness. I'll be joined here every Monday by a guest blogger who has been kind enough to answer some questions about meditation and mindfulness. I'm hoping it will be an interesting way to show the diversity of what mindfulness can be. Hope you all read along and share your thoughts.
The inaugural Monday Mindfulness is with Erica Walch. She is an accent modification training in Springfield Massachusetts. If you want to learn more about her be sure to check out her website and blog.


Please tell me about yourself: who are you, what do you do for a living, where is your home base?

I am an accent modification trainer in Springfield, Massachusetts.

If you only had a few words to describe mindfulness, what would you say?

Being mindful is being tuned-in to all your senses in the present moment. 

I’m fascinated at hearing about how people became involved in meditation and other mindfulness practices. How did this become part of your life?

I've practiced yoga for almost 20 years (!), and first came to meditation through yoga. I don’t remember how or where I first heard of mindfulness, but as soon as I started reading about mindfulness, I knew that it could be helpful for my accent modification clients.

Why has meditation/mindfulness become important to you? How has your experience of life changed?

Meditation -- like yoga, prayer, and exercise -- makes me feel good. I like to feel good, so that’s why it’s important to me! Meditation and prayer give me a profound feeling of peace and serenity. Practicing mindfulness gives me a richer experience of the material world and of time. In being mindful and doing one thing at a time, but doing that one thing fully, I am able to get so much out of each moment.

Please tell me a little bit about your practice. What makes it unique or different? What makes it helpful?

I work with proficient non-native speakers of English who want to change the way they communicate orally. During our lessons, all of my clients can learn to accurately mimic the sounds and intonation patterns of standard American English, but when it comes to speaking naturally, they don’t employ those new sounds and patterns. I believe this is because their focus is not on the surface level of communication – they are quite mindful of what they say but not how they say it or of how other people receive (or don’t) what they say. I help my clients become more mindful about their speech, and this helps them have more success in changing their accents.

Does your meditation practice lead you to think about anything in particular about psychotherapy, mental illness, or the change process?

Change is often quite slow and incremental. I work with clients for a fixed fifteen-week course. My goal during that time is to equip them with all the knowledge and habits of mindfulness that will enable them to continue to practice on their own. I check in with clients every six months or so and those who have continued to practice and to be mindful about their speech continue to make progress. Change is slow, but possible with mindful attention.

Advice for someone wanting to be more mindful:

If you notice that you are not fully engaged in the present moment, try to check in to your five senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you taste? What do you touch?

You can also say the mini-mantra: “Here is where I am, and this is what I’m doing” and then replace here and this with your location and action. “I am in the park. I am walking.”

Other thoughts:

I’m not a psychologist or psychotherapist. I believe that psychotherapy encourages patients to look inward to find answers, while in my practice, I encourage clients to look outwards. My clients are unaware of how different they are from others when it comes to oral communication. I urge them to listen to other people as much as possible, listen to themselves, and make a comparison. I don’t want them to be unique! I want them to blend in, to find what is common in other people’s speech expressions and to try to imitate that.

Two of Ellen Langer’s aspects of mindfulness come to mind here – alertness to distinction and awareness of multiple perspectives. My clients must be alert to the differences in the sounds of the words they are producing and how standard English speakers produce those same words. They also need to be aware of multiple perspectives in order to appreciate the effect their oral production has on listeners.

The aspect of mindfulness that is probably most crucial when it comes to making a change is openness to novelty. Some of my clients decide that they don’t want to change the way they speak after all. It’s too new and strange for them, and it impacts their sense of self. Others go through a bit of an identity crisis and then decide that they do, indeed, want to change the way they speak. Those who embrace the habits and practice of mindfulness are able to make the most lasting changes.

Erica Walsh's web site: http://speakeasyenglish.com/

Sunday, October 3, 2010

365 Days of Mindfulness

Since July 12th, I've dutifully taken a moment to stand in the same spot (nearly) every day for a moment of mindfulness. For more about why check out my earlier blog post. The first 39 days got their very own video treatment. Here's the next installment. What do you see?